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Art trove of princess born to Texas oil royalty hits the block

Katya Kazakina


 /  Sun, April 14, 2019  /  01:08 am
Art trove of princess born to Texas oil royalty hits the block

About 30 pieces Cecil Amelia Blaffer bought and inherited could fetch more than $40 million at Christie’s (Shutterstock/Supavadee Butradee)

Cecil Amelia Blaffer was as close as they come to royalty in America, an heiress to two Texas oil fortunes and a patron of fine art and classical music.

Then, at 55, she married an Austrian prince and spent the rest of her days as H.S.H. Princess “Titi” von Fuerstenberg.

Next month, 13 years after her death, about 30 pieces she bought and inherited could fetch more than $40 million at Christie’s. The auction house plans to offer 11 pieces, including those by Pablo Picasso, Mark Rothko and Andre Derain, as part of its evening sale of Impressionist and modern art on May 13. The rest, including African and Latin American artworks, will be sold throughout the year.

Princess Titi’s trove joins a roster of prominent collections hitting the block during upcoming semiannual New York auctions. Sotheby’s has Francis Bacon’s screaming pope painting from the collection of the late Seattle businessman Richard E. Lang and his wife Jane Lang Davis. Christie’s will sell Jeff Koons’s rabbit sculpture purchased by late media mogul Si Newhouse as well as a rare Robert Rauschenberg painting of John F. Kennedy from the estate of Beatrice “Buddy” Mayer, an heiress to the Sara Lee fortune who died in September.

Read also: Christie's to auction historic Faberge tiara

“What we are seeing more and more is the interesting collections that were put together 40, 50 years ago,” said Adrien Meyer, Christie’s co-chairman of Impressionist and modern art. “They precisely represent moments of collecting history” and people who were “buying at the moment of pivotal art innovations,” he said.

Cecil Amelia Blaffer was born to a prominent, philanthropic Houston family. Her father, Robert Lee Blaffer, was a founder of Humble Oil, a predecessor to Exxon Mobil Corp.; her maternal grandfather, William Thomas Campbell, was among the founders of the oil giant now known as Texaco.

‘Consummate hostess’

Her mother, Sarah Campbell Blaffer, supported the arts and built an extensive private collection of Old Master, Impressionist and modern works. The University of Houston’s Blaffer Art Museum is named in her honor.

The daughter took after her mother in terms of collecting and patronage. She spoke five languages and was known as a “consummate hostess,” according to Christie’s. She was a patron of the Houston Symphony Orchestra and the Wagner opera festival in Bayreuth, Germany.

Her first marriage to Edward Joseph Hudson, a petroleum engineer with companies of his own, ended in divorce in the early 1960s. She settled for $6.5 million, “a remarkable sum at the time,” according to her obituary in the Houston Chronicle.

In 1975, she married Prince Tassilo von Fuerstenberg of Austria. The Paris nuptials, described as “the royal wedding of Texas,” drew guests including Princess Grace of Monaco, whose husband Prince Rainier was the bridegroom’s cousin.

The top lot of her art trove at Christie’s is Picasso’s “Le Lettre (La Reponse),” a neo-classical portrait of his first wife, the Russian-born ballerina Olga Khokhlova, sporting a perfectly rendered fur collar.


Pablo Picasso’s ‘La Lettre (La Réponse)’ is one of 11 works from The Collection of H.S.H. Princess ‘Titi’ von Fürstenberg, offered in our Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Auction in New York this May.⠀ .⠀ The collection also includes pieces by Mark Rothko, André Derain, Emil Nolde and Lucio Fontana, reflecting Titi’s appreciation for the great artists of her time.⠀ .⠀ ‘La Lettre (La Réponse)’ was one of 16 works by Picasso to feature in his New York and Chicago exhibitions in 1923-24 – his first solo shows in America. Titi’s mother, Sarah Campbell, acquired the painting directly from Picasso’s dealer Paul Rosenberg.⠀ .⠀ Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), ‘La Lettre (La Réponse)’, 1923. Estimate: $20,000,000-30,000,000. © 2019 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.⠀ .⠀ Impressionist and Modern Art Evening Sale – 13 May at Christie’s New York.⠀ .⠀ #art #artwork #artist #picasso #pablopicasso #painting #modernart #newyork

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Estimated at $20 million to $30 million, the oil-on-canvas is part of the trio of large portraits of Olga completed by Picasso in early 1923. The work was included in Picasso’s solo U.S. debut the following winter. Von Fuerstenberg received it from her mother, who bought it in 1946.

She also inherited Derain’s “Les Voiles Rouges,” a 1906 work depicting a sailboat with red sails and estimated at $4 million to $6 million.

Princess von Fuerstenberg continued her mother’s passion by acquiring more contemporary works. These include a 1949 Rothko, painted during the artist’s transition to his signature abstract style, estimated at $2 million to $3 million. Nicolas de Stael’s “Ciel,” painted in 1953 when the French artist participated in the prestigious Venice Biennale, is estimated at $300,000 to $500,000.

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