There, sitting at a dilapidated, graffitietched table, an ancient fan whirring near a brokendown copy machine, one can (by edict of New York State law, which declares that all wills be made public) leaf through the last instructions of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, arguably the most famous woman of this century.
The 36 pages of legalsize paper are contained in a long manila folder and are already well worn by rifling fingers.
A drawing table where she painted was set up in the living room."Jackie's taste wasn't chic," says one arbiter of taste, who adds, "Lee [Radziwillj's taste was chic—and always changing."Those with refined sensibilities found it admirable that Jackie seemed to have remained immune to the decor mania of the late 70s and 80s and that she preferred to spend her time working as a book editor, riding, and playing with her grandchildren, rather than pondering species of fringe or the intricacies of upholstery with a decorator.
They see in it a reflection of the uppercrust values of another era (benign neglect) and a reflection, as well, of her private self, as opposed to the immaculate public image.
It was her taste."The rarefied New York critics will hardly influence the relic seekers who flock to Sotheby's next spring; they will imbue each object with the romance of the owner's life and myth. What history and what private life did these things witness?
Each thud of the auctioneer's gavel will open a Pandora's box of memories: the Van Cleef & Arpels gold rubyanddiamond necklace with matching ring given to her by Aristotle Onassis as wedding presents in the fall of 1968; a wedding dress that many speculate is the gown she wore to marry J. K.; the Franchetti portrait of Jackie with Lee; the 19thcentury book Costume of the Russian Empire, which Jackie undoubtedly used for her research with Diana Vreeland for the Russiancostume exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum; the gold snakeform bracelet that may have been her l Othanniversary gift from J. K.; much "ungood" furniture (a painted screen, candelabras, urns, commodes) from the apartment; plus bricabrac that will no doubt be invested with history by the creative experts at Sotheby's—an ashtray, a cigarette box, two large tortoise shells, a shovel . Who was the real woman who wore this necklace, this ring? Onassis once told me when I was a reporter for The New York Times.
The rest was French and Italian decorative painted furniture, souvenirs from Jackie's travels (an obsidian sphinx said to have been given by Anwar Sadat, Greek worry beads of blue glass), stacks of books, her collection of drawings of animals dating from the 17th century onward, and overstuffed sofas and chairs.
Although the value of the estate is not given in the will, it has been estimated that she left a fortune of between 0 and 0 million.
(An informed source, however, claims it is much less than most people assume.) The will, drawn up by Alexander Forger of Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & Mc Cloy, is as sophisticated as one would expect—and has been cited by magazine as a model of elegant estate planning. memorabilia will be donated to the Kennedy Library.
"When you look back on your life, you hardly recognize the person you once were. ."Jackie Bouvier has nothing to do with Jackie Kennedy," he continues, "and Jackie Kennedy has nothing to do with Jackie Onassis.
Like a snake shedding skins."She had shed several."You must remember that success and power can transform someone, even physically." says Benno Graziani, former editor in chief of Paris Match, who first met Jackie in Paris at a dinner given by Paul de Ganay. For those who knew her well, these were three different people."As the young married Jackie Kennedy, she was "a Beaux Arts type of girl," as Arthur Krock of The New York Times once described her, "merry, arch, satirical, terribly democratic, and, yes, brilliant."With the 1960 campaign the sprightly senator's wife became the serene, selfeffacing Madonna, often with child, of Joe Kennedy's myth machine.