Published: August 24, 2021
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Catalog Photos Courtesy Heritage Auctions
DALLAS – The estate of Phyllis McGuire, the middle sister and last surviving member of the 1950s and 60s singing group The McGuire Sisters, crossed the block at Heritage Auctions on August 10 following a tri-city tour that previewed jewelry highlights in Beverly Hills and New York City. With all 383 lots finding new owners, the sale totaled $1,852,731 and earned “white glove” distinction; it was divided approximately into thirds, with one third being jewelry, one third of couture, and furnishings making up the remainder of the sale. Proceeds from the auction went to McGuire’s heirs as well as to her charitable foundation.
“It was a great sale. We had more than 1,000 bidders with a wide-spread audience all over the world,” Carolyn Mani, Heritage Auctions’ Beverly Hills, Calif.,-based specialist in charge of the sale said. “We had a number of new buyers who were drawn to the sale because of her name and the quality of the material.”
McGuire’s Las Vegas residence spread out more than 26,000 square feet and was the third white-glove celebrity auction Mani had overseen for Heritage, previously handling the estates of Shirley Temple and Zsa Zsa Gabor, in 2016 and 2018, respectively. McGuire’s palatial home was flamboyant on a scale rarely seen and epitomized her lifestyle of performing and being friends with Rat Pack members Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Dean Martin and Johnny Carson and one-time girlfriend of mobster Sam Giancana.
While the majority of lots were sent to Dallas for preview and sale, a number of things were left in Las Vegas because of size and complexity of shipping. Among these was the top lot in the sale, a pair of Nineteenth Century Napoleon III gilt-bronze mounted covered urns on fluted rouge marble columns that stood 75 inches tall that achieved $106,250 and sold to a private collector. Mani noted that the quality of the mounts, which retained their original gilding, was among the finest she’d ever seen.
McGuire’s house featured a 45-foot replica of the Eiffel Tower and a large-scale replica of the Arc de Triomphe so French furniture was well suited to the décor. Other pieces of furniture – made in France or in the French taste – that brought high prices include a caned chair by François Linke at $27,500, just ahead of the $25,000 realized for a Nineteenth Century copy of the Louis XV gilt-bronze bureau plat made by Jacques B. Dubois that Benjamin Franklin signed the Treaty of Alliance at in 1778.
“The size of the rugs in her home were among the largest I’ve ever seen in a private residence,” Mani said, referring to the palace-sized rugs, all of which brought figures placing them within the top lots of the sale. A Twentieth Century Tabriz carpet that measured 194 by 333 inches – or 16 feet 2 inches by 27 feet 9 inches – also did not travel to Dallas, presumably because of its size. Bidders pushed it to $62,500, while an even larger Nineteenth Century Tabriz with hunter’s motif made $42,500. Rounding out the top three prices for rugs and carpets, an early Nineteenth Century “palatial” French Aubusson tapestry brought $18,750.
Though McGuire herself did not play an instrument, the sale included a Bösendorfer mahogany and pearwood inlaid 92-key grand piano, a Steinway grand piano, a Steinway square grand piano and a Nineteenth Century French Erard floor harp. The Bösendorfer was not old, only about 20 years old, but Mani, who has played piano since she was a little girl, said it was one of the finest instruments she had ever played. It sold for $50,000 to an East Coast paintings collector who had wanted a new instrument and was “very, very happy” with his purchase. The Steinway model B grand piano played to $15,000, the Steinway square grand piano chimed out at $4,250.
Mani was quick to point out the extremely high quality of the jewelry in McGuire’s collection. “She had an amazing eye; although much of it was very flamboyant, it worked because she performed with it, and it looks like it belongs on the stage. She was known for having a lot of jewelry and frequently traveled with a bodyguard because of it. The quality of the stones was just unbelievable.”
Purportedly one of McGuire’s favorite pieces of jewelry brought the highest price of the category. An American buyer paid $47,500 for an Indian Art Deco diamond and 18K white gold necklace with approximately 36 carats of diamonds, while a diamond and ruby platinum-clad gold bracelet finished at $40,000.
If acquisition and provenance records for furnishings were not available to Heritage, McGuire cultivated relationships with couturiers and designers. She kept detailed records, sketches, original advertisements and fabric swatches of her couture, which Mani said she considered an investment; she also kept all of her gowns on chiffon covered mannequins in a temperature-controlled environment. The sale offered nearly 150 lots by designers, including Chanel, Norman Norell, James Galanos, George Stavropoulos, Thed Parker, Valentino, Halson, Hermes and Louis Vuitton.
“I have never walked into a collection like that so well preserved,” Mani said. “It was an amazing group to see in situ. It is the first time Heritage has presented a couture collection of this magnitude and it brought a lot of interest from new buyers. McGuire’s Chanel clothing, in particular, saw an overwhelming response.”
It was a Coco Chanel ensemble, featuring a gown, velvet and gold lace coat and necklace that did the best of the couture collection and sold for $16,875. Luxury accessories were topped by a diamond, platinum and gold clutch purse with 1.65 carats of diamonds that had the name “Phyllis” emblazoned across the front. It sold for $18,750; no word from Mani if the buyer was also named Phyllis.
Heritage will offer 30 lots of McGuire’s best pieces of jewelry in its September 27 Jewelry signature auction.
Prices quoted include the buyer’s premium as reported by the auction house.
For information, www.ha.com, 214-528-3500 or 877-437-4824.
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