A jewel-encrusted brooch made by Salvador Dali and once owned by Taylor Swift’s tragic socialite muse Rebekah Harkness is expected to fetch up to $1.5 million when it goes to auction next week.
The piece of jewelry – which features a starfish studded with diamonds, rubies, emeralds and a sizeable pearl – also comes with two detachable butterflies as a nod to Dali’s surreal aesthetic.
Christie’s experts estimate the Étoile de Mer will fetch between $1 million to $1.5 million when it goes under the hammer on June 7 as part of the Magnificent Jewels sale.
The brooch was a prized possession of Ms Harkness and she wore it on multiple occasions, with it either pinned to rest upon her shoulder or laid high on her chest accenting an evening gown.
A brooch made by Salvador Dali and once owned by Taylor Swift’s tragic socialite muse Rebekah Harkness is expected to fetch up to $1.5 million when it goes to auction next week
The brooch was a prized possession of tragic socialite muse Rebekah Harkness and she wore it on multiple occasions
The eccentric socialite – pictured in 1969 – became a hot topic in recent times after inspiring Taylor Swift’s song The Last Great American Dynasty
The eccentric socialite – who passed away in 1982 – became a hot topic in recent times after inspiring Taylor Swift’s song The Last Great American Dynasty.
Swift’s 2020 album Folklore was described as a collection of songs written ‘from the perspective of people I’ve never met.’
One such person is Ms Harkness, who the singer described as ‘a misfit widow getting gleeful revenge on the town that cast her out.’
That ‘town’ is Watch Hill, Rhode Island – an affluent coastal village where Swift purchased a cliff side mansion in 2013 that was once owned by Ms Harkness and husband William, a Standard Oil heir who was one of the wealthiest men in America.
The newlywed couple purchased the 40-room mansion in 1947 and called it ‘Holiday House’ where Ms Harkness entertained Salvador Dalí, her personal yogi, B.K.S. Iyengar, and her pet raccoon.
Married just seven years, Ms Harkness inherited her husband’s vast fortune after he died from a heart attack in 1953.
In widowhood, she renovated the Rhode Island mansion to accommodate eight kitchens and 21 bathrooms, an arrangement that ‘effectively kept her from having to see her three children on anything like a regular basis,’ The New York Times said.
Though she was a gifted sculptor, composer and generous patron of the ballet; it’s the more lurid details of Ms Harkness’ life that have come to define her legacy.
She once rang J. D. Salinger’s doorbell dressed as a cleaning lady. She also spiked the punch at her sister’s debutante ball with mineral oil.
She cleaned her pool with Dom Perignon, dyed chocolate mousse blue and made enemies when she dyed her neighbor’s cat lime-green in revenge.
Swift’s 2020 album Folklore was described as a collection of songs written ‘from the perspective of people I’ve never met.’ One such person is Ms Harkness
After her husband’s death, Ms Harkness spent his fortune living a lavish life on champagne and drugs with houses around the world where she entertained Salvador Dalí (pictured)
Swift purchased a cliff side mansion in 2013 that was once owned by Ms Harkness and her husband William, a Standard Oil heir who was one of the wealthiest men in America
Along with Ms Harkness’ brooch, the upcoming Christie’s sale features its original design drawing in a mix of watercolor, pen and ink on paper
She killed her goldfish by filling the tank with scotch and took pleasure in moving massive amounts of money between bank accounts in order to confuse her accountants.
With millions to burn, her life descended into chaos and excess, defined by drugs, insanity, suicide, subsequent marriages, and homes all around the world.
She indulged in the luxuries her frugal dead husband frowned upon: a ski chalet in Switzerland, a palatial penthouse in Madison Avenue’s exclusive Westbury Hotel, endless amounts of champagne and curious ‘vitamin B injections’ from New York’s infamous Dr. Feelgood.
Swift’s lyrics read: ‘There goes the maddest woman this town has ever seen/She had a marvelous time ruining everything.’
Ms. Harkness’s son Allen said that she surrounded herself with ‘all the fairies flying off the floor, the blackmailing lawyers, the weirdos, the people in the trances.’
She died at the age of 67 from stomach cancer in 1982. Much like her chaotic life, the funeral was no different.
Harkness arranged to have her ashes stored in an ornate, $250,000 urn designed by her longtime friend, Salvador Dali
She arranged to have her ashes stored in an ornate, $250,000 urn designed by her longtime friend, Dali. But her ashes didn’t completely fit in the delicate vase. ‘Just a leg is in there, or maybe half of her head, and an arm,’ one of her friends told The New York Times.
Her daughter, Ann Terry, was forced to tote the rest of her mother’s remains in a Gristede’s shopping bag.
Her grandiose apartment at the illustrious Carlyle Hotel was pillaged by friends, family and acquaintances.
Edith, Ms Harkness’ youngest daughter raided her mother’s pills. ‘Seconal, Nembutal, Valium, Haldol, Librium and various painkillers – 40 vials in all,’ Ms Harkness’ biographer Craig Unger said.
Ann Terry hired the famous attack-dog lawyer, Roy Cohn to have her mother’s will nullified, but failed after three years of probate. The tragic footnote to Ms Harkness’ life was the death of her daughter Edith to suicide two months later.
The last few sentences in Taylor Swift’s third track off her Folklore album read: ‘Flew in all her B**** Pack friends from the city /Filled the pool with champagne and swam with the big names/And blew through the money on the boys and the ballet/And losing on card game bets with Dalí.’
Along with Ms Harkness’ brooch, the upcoming Christie’s sale features its original design drawing in a mix of watercolor, pen and ink on paper.
The framed design for Étoile de Mer, which features Dali’s signature and the date ‘1950,’ is set to fetch between $40,000 and $60,000.