Freeman’s celebrates storied legacy of Merrywood with March 23 estate auction
PHILADELPHIA — Freeman’s presents The Legacy of Merrywood: The Estate of Alan I and Dianne Kay, a nearly 80-lot auction that brings an esteemed collection of art, furniture and design objects to market. The Legacy of Merrywood, to be held Thursday, March 23, tells the story of the titular palatial estate in McLean, Virginia, both a historic structure and the childhood home of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Merrywood was purchased and subsequently renovated and expanded by Alan and Dianne Kay in 1984; the couple filled the home with a sophisticated collection of art and objects, and for eight years hosted the immensely successful annual American Cancer Society Ball at the property. The sale showcases a selection of works that the Kays cherished and lived with during their time at Merrywood. The Legacy of Merrywood is led by Henri-Edmond Cross’s Leda, a vibrant, dynamic 1905 canvas by the French Neo-Impressionist, estimated at $60,000-$100,000, which was once hung on the walls of the historic estate. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
The Legacy of Merrywood puts the sophisticated collecting activities of the Kays on full display, and offers collectors the opportunity to own objects that defined the Kays’ aesthetic. Among these is a pair of George III scagliola inlaid and giltwood demilune tables, accents that lead the sale’s furniture and design selection. The pair has an estimate of $20,000-$40,000.
The March 23 auction offers a wide selection of European furniture styles, from a William and Mary walnut cabinet and George I walnut side chair to a Regency mahogany table and Charles X oak side cabinet. Collectors will also find excellent Chinese Export lacquer furniture works, Sino-Tibetan altar ornaments and other emblems of Gilded Age-era East-West exchange.
In addition to Cross’s Leda, Freeman’s sale features several important paintings and sculptures from the Kay collection, including two stately bronzes: Pomone a la Tunique by Aristide Maillol, estimated at $50,000-$80,000; and Man with Top Hat by Elie Nadelman. Also on offer is a drawing of a bathing nude by Henri Matisse and sculpture and works on paper by Kees van Dongen, Anne and Patrick Poirier, Richard Guino and Louis Valtat.
An enormously socially and politically influential couple in Washington, D.C., the Kays were fiercely dedicated to their philanthropic mission. After Alan’s younger brother died of colon cancer in 1981, the pair began co-chairing the lavish American Cancer Society Ball at Merrywood. The ball regularly attracted celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Farrah Fawcett, Charles Bronson and Phyllis Diller; it raised millions of dollars and was the nation’s largest fundraiser for cancer research several years running.
Dianne and Alan Kay also founded the Children’s Inn at the National Institutes of Health, a free home-away-from-home for children and young adults participating in clinical studies at the NIH. The Kays championed cancer research for decades, and their philanthropic legacy lives on in the institutions they helped create in their lifetimes.
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