Master Class: The Interiors of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis


I recently acquired a copy of Sotheby's catalog of its celebrated 1996 auction of the estate of Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.  While Jackie Kennedy Onassis' style and fashion are renowned and images of her abound, the catalog is a treasure trove of photos of her New York City apartment that I had not seen, as well as contains a wealth of information about her vast collection of art and antiquities.  The catalog serves as a Master Class for her timeless and elegant decorative eye.

The photo here of her New York City entrance way combines all the elements of her worldly and sophisticated style: fine European antiques and decorative objects, such as the French porcelain jardiniere, circa 1810; Asian elements, as seen in this 18th century Chinese red lacquered console table; museum quality fine art and sculptures, as in the Roman Marble Torso of a God from the 2nd century AD; generous use of blue and white porcelain, such as this pair of Chinese 20th century porcelain miniature garden stools converted to lamps; fresh flowers throughout in simple single variety arrangements, seen here in the amaryllis potted in the French jardiniere and the quince branches brought indoors, and, finally, the addition of a "modern" piece, seen here in the spectacular tiger eye maple mirror. 

What strikes me is that, while Jackie Kennedy Onassis' style was informed by a lifetime of world travel, reading, collecting fine art and antiques, and conversations and friendships with truly the best and brightest of the 20th century, her unerring eye and restraint kept her interiors accessible and never, ever over the top-- as seen in her willingness to rest a gilt framed John Singer Sargent watercolor on a simple white painted wooden easel, to place a rare gilt and Moroccan leather travel case owned by Marie Antoinette next to a 20th century blue and white Chinese porcelain lamp, and to put a mass of quince branches in a wicker basket atop a baby grand piano.  Her interiors, like her fashion, serve as hallmarks of sophisticated, intelligent, elegant and timeless design.  

Photo and details, Sotheby's, Estate of Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, 1996.


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