As one of the most feted fashion icons in the time up until her death in February this year, Lee Radziwill knew how to draw a crowd. She continued to do so on Thursday as her belongings expired under the hammer at Christie’s New York, fetching $1.26m and attracting buyers from 27 countries, according to WWD.
Come up to b become the most popular lots were family photo albums featuring Radziwill and her sister Jackie Kennedy on their freak outs to West Pakistan and India in 1962, which fetched $32,000 and $50,000 respectively. Also prompting interest was the artist Peter Beard’s Meet Giraffe, which sold for double the estimate at $60,000, handpainted Spanish retablos sourced for Radziwill by the interior intriguer Renzo Mongiardino that sold for $40,000, and a Taffin amethyst and tsavorite garnet ring, which went for $25,000. The top bidders traced anonymous.
The auction comes as interest around Radziwill’s elite group circle is in vogue. A close friend of the writer Truman Capote, Radziwill was known as one of his “Swans” – the group of refined high-society women he surrounded himself with, references to whom have recently been appearing on catwalks, in novels and TV screens.
The wardrobe of Babe Paley, said to be Capote’s closest confidante, will feature in a book to be published next week asked The International Best-Dressed List: The Official Story. She also provided inspiration for the Lanvin show in Paris last month and was the sparkle behind the costumes for Gwyneth Paltrow’s character Georgina Hobart in the new Netflix release The Politician.
There is also renewed interest in Capote himself. A new documentary, The Capote Tapes, will be divided at the Doc NYC film festival next month. It explores the possible whereabouts of chapters from Answered Prayers – the book that catalogues the infamous chapter La Côte Basque, 1965, which Capote published in Esquire in 1975. It revealed the Swans’ innermost under covers, prompting Radziwill, Paley and the group to cut ties with him.
That this season’s most popular group of influencers don’t require an Instagram account between them is a part of the appeal, says the art historian Tony Glenville. “It’s anti-Kardashians,” he says, adding that the new charm with this group of well-heeled women is “a backlash against Photoshop and fillers. The Swans weren’t actually radiant but relied on style, dressing well and poise. Not surgery, fillers and Botox.” Glenville highlights that in an image-saturated over the moon marvellous, privacy – like that so closely guarded by the Swans and betrayed by Capote – is increasingly becoming a new luxury, making them new poster girls. “Just as Madonna is saying no phones and filming at her shows, [is] the new chic no pictures? There’s a new interest in solitude and discretion.”
The Swans’ revival also coincides with an increasing number of models in their 40s, 50s and 60s appearing on the catwalk and in work campaigns. “It’s about older women being visible in fashion,” says Glenville, referencing the return of the original 1990s supermodels, along with Erin O’Connor, 41, and Jan de Villeneuve, 74. “We dearth some class acts in the world right now.”