A portrait of Jacqueline Bouvier Lee, a.k.a. Jackie Kennedy, depicting her as a teenager, has appeared in a Long Island art gallery and has sparked a federal lawsuit brought by some of her relatives.
The relatives say it is stolen.
The art gallery owner says it is not and that he has doubts that the relatives ever owned it in the first place.
The relatives are led by Bouvier Beale, a cousin of Mrs. Kennedy, who has filed suit against Terry Wallace, owner of the Wallace Gallery in Islip, New York.
Three of the principal players in this drama are dead. Mrs. Kennedy died of cancer in 1994.
The two others are Mrs. Kennedy’s aunt Edith Beale, known as “Big Edie,” and a first cousin, also named Edith, known as “Little Edie.” The mother and daughter Beale achieved fame in the 1970s when they were the focus of an HBO documentary titled “Grey Gardens.” Grey Gardens was the once-elegant home where the Beales lived that had deteriorated as the mother and daughter had become more eccentric and reclusive.
Bouvier Beale is a grandson of Big Edie and says that the painting was given to his grandmother and her daughter by Mrs. Kennedy’s father, John V. Bouvier, a well-to-do stockbroker who died in 1957. Big Edie died in 1977, and Little Edie died in 2002.
Bouvier Beale claims the painting was stolen from Grey Gardens, and he had been asked by the estate to recover it. By law, a painting that is stolen must be returned to its owner, even if the current holder bought it legitimately.
Wallace, who has operated the gallery for a quarter of a century, says he obtained the painting legally and that he can produce its chain of ownership. He also cast doubt on the claim that the Beales ever actually owned the painting.
All this for a small painting of a 19-year-old girl — who would become the most famous woman in the world during the 1960s.
The family claims the painting is worth more than $75,000, which is the threshold that it must meet to be the subject of a federal lawsuit. Art experts say that if the painting is sold, it is likely to bring much more than that because of its subject.
And just as I thought I was done with Jackie Kennedy for a while . . . .
A new book on Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, her sister Lee Radziwill, and her mother Janet Auchincloss has just been published and recently reviewed by the New York Times.
JACKIE, JANET & LEE
The Secret Lives of Janet Auchincloss and Her Daughters, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Lee Radziwill
By J. Randy Taraborrelli
Illustrated. 528 pp. St. Martin’s Press. $29.99.
It explores the relationships among the three women and they progressed through fortune, fame, and tragedy. The review is written by Laura Thompson, who is the author of “The Six: The Lives of the Mitford Sisters.” Her next book, “Agatha Christie: A Mysterious Life,” will be published in March.
Thompson’s review says, in part:
Taraborrelli is highly effective at describing this sisterly dynamic — the bond that tensed at the least provocation; the never-fully-sincere exchanges of “I love you”; even, at the height of some ghastly adult trauma, uneasy relapses into games of “You’re it.” The material, most of which will inevitably be familiar to many readers, is newly enhanced by telling, gossipy details from a satisfying bundle of interviews. The sisters’ half brother, Jamie Auchincloss, who became persona non grata after he spoke to the author Kitty Kelley about Jackie circa 1977, provides a running commentary that portrays a society whose tastefully presented aim is to keep its chalice of wealth and privilege filled to the brim. “Money is power,” as Jackie once said to Jack Warnecke, the lover she took after Kennedy’s death — the architect who designed the gravesite memorial at Arlington, and whom she later left for the unassailably rich Onassis.
Sounds like lots of good gossip if you like that sort of thing — and who among us doesn’t?
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