On Oct. 22, Christie's in New York will begin selling the most valuable collection that has ever come to them from an American source: the printed books, illuminated manuscripts and works of art gathered by Estelle Doheny (1875-1958), who married Los Angeles oil man Edward Laurence Doheny in 1900.
Seven sales, spread between October, 1987, and May, 1989, are expected to bring a total in excess of $20 million.
Estelle Doheny, a prominent Roman Catholic philanthropist and the first woman in Southern California to be named a Papal Countess (an honor given by the Pope to prominent Catholic women), left her collections to St. John's Seminary, Camarillo, Calif.--a Spanish-style building she had commissioned in 1939 from architect Wallace Neff. She stipulated that the collections not be sold for 25 years after her death.
In 1986, Archbishop Roger Mahony asked 83-year-old Gerald Lynch, a consultant with Colt Industries Inc. in Burbank, to chair a committee to decide whether the collections should be sold, and if so, by whom.
The committee invited both Christie's and Sotheby's to prepare reports and estimates. For six months the two auction houses were given equal opportunities to view the collections. In February, 1987, Mahony signed a contract with Christie's.