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Harriman auction fetches $4.6 million the first night

May 20, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ Although not on the same scale with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the late Pamela Harriman proved she had a mystique all her own.

The opening night of an auction of her possessions fetched $4.6 million, slightly above the minimum three-day estimate. The second of six sessions opens this morning.

``Staircase in Capri,″ an oil painting by American John Singer Sargent, attracted the highest price _ $1.43 million dollars.

The fourth most-valuable painting, a still-life called ``Jug With Bottles″ that sold for $184,000, was just as notable _ it was painted by Mrs. Harriman’s father-in-law, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

``When things go for 10 times or 15 times their estimated value, there is clearly an aura,″ said Diana Brooks, president of Sotheby’s.

Born to Britain’s 11th Lord Digby, Pamela Harriman dazzled men of power up to her death in February at 76. She was married to Churchill’s son Randolph, motion picture producer Leland Hayward and former New York Gov. and ambassador Averell Harriman. Mrs. Harriman also was a major fund-raiser for the Democratic Party before being named U.S. ambassador to France.

``What did she do to get all these men in her life? Obviously that’s what everybody’s fascinated with,″ said Jackie Maritz, a St. Louis interior decorator at the auction. ``What was her magic that made them buy her this stuff?″

Mrs. Onassis’ name and fame rang up $34.5 million last year for 6,000 items that had been valued at just $4.5 million.

Mrs. Harriman’s aura also was evident, as items went for 10 times or 15 times their estimated value.

A pair of pillows with the ostrich family crest of Mrs. Harriman’s father were valued at $200 to $300, but fetched $2,100. A sketch of the crest by a friend of Mrs. Harriman’s, Jean Hannon, fetched $5,000, compared to expectations as low as $100.

Pens with which President Kennedy and Averell Harriman signed the 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, along with a copy of the treaty, sold for $78,200.

A check dated March 19, 1945, for 27 pounds, 3 shillings from Churchill to Averell Harriman to cover a card game debt sold for $14,950.

The principal beneficiaries of the sale of 1,100 lots are Mrs. Harriman’s son, Winston S. Churchill, and his estranged wife. Many of the buyers were not identified.

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