The items up for bidding at Palm Beach Modern Auctions included Onassis’ handwritten notes to interior designer Richard Keith Langham and Bill Hamilton, then the design director at Carolina Herrera.
Onassis corresponded with both men about clothes and furnishings she was buying from the mid-1980s through her death in 1994.
Letters written by Onassis rarely appear at auction, and the auction house fielded “tremendous interest” in the roughly 20 lots available, said co-owner Wade Terwiller.
|Groups of photos of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis by Bod Davidoff, who spent decades as the Kennedy family’s photographer in Palm Beach, and other personal correspondence written by Kennedy Onassis appear on display before they are auctioned off in West Palm Beach, Florida. (AP)|
“When we hold auctions of art and furniture, you don’t see people engaging in dialogue at the preview. This was different. People wanted to comment on her clothes and recall where they were and what was going on when Jackie appeared in a particular outfit,” he said.
Potential bidders related to Onassis’ thoughts on her personal style, which included detailed instructions on how she wanted her jackets and pants to fit and pleas for more color in her wardrobe, Terwiller said.
In one note Onassis wrote to Hamilton, along with her own sketch of a pant suit, she said: “I just love this suit & will wear it everywhere as I am SO sick of everyone constantly in black ― like Mediterranean villages where everyone is in mourning for 20 years.”
“One of the women at the preview was reading that note and said, ‘I know what she meant about black. I’m sick of seeing black, too, and I’m from that generation.’ People really connected with Jackie,” Terwiller said.
The auction house says 1,100 people offered bids by phone, online and in person. Co-owner Rico Baca had expected bidding to start from $800 to $1,200 for each lot.
Fetching the highest bid was a book about Onassis’ restoration of the White House, which she signed for Langham. It sold for $4,575. “What fun it would have been to work with you then,” Onassis wrote to Langham in an accompanying note on her signature blue stationary.
A pair of black-and-white photographs of Onassis by society photographer Bob Davidoff, who spent decades as the Kennedy family‘s photographer in Palm Beach, sold for $2,200.