Frank Sinatra: personal items including engagement ring to be auctioned

The collection, expected to fetch at least $3.5m, also features a Norman Rockwell painting and trinkets from former presidents

Ol’ Blue Eyes is going on the auction block.

Personal items belonging to singer Frank Sinatra and his wife Barbara went on display in New York Friday, before an auction of Barbara Sinatra’s estate set for next month at Sotheby’s.

The collection – expected to fetch at least $3.5m – includes the engagement ring Sinatra gave his wife, trinkets from US presidents he palled around with, and a Norman Rockwell painting of Sinatra that he commissioned directly from the artist.

Barbara Sinatra was his fourth wife, and they were married for 22 years until his death. She died last year, and the items up for sale come from the couple’s three homes in Palm Springs, Los Angeles and Malibu.

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“You see many facets of Sinatra you wouldn’t normally see as a fan,” said Mari-Claudia Jimenez, a senior vice-president at Sotheby’s. “People think of him as a singer or an actor, but here you learn that he was a painter. You learn that he was a friend to every US president from Truman to Clinton. You see that he’s an avid art collector. You see that he’s a romantic husband who likes to gift beautiful things to his wife.”

The priciest piece is the 20-carat diamond engagement ring Frank used to propose to Barbara, a former showgirl, slipping it into her champagne glass when they were out to dinner.

‘You see many facets of Sinatra you wouldn’t normally see as a fan,’ said Mari-Claudia Jimenez, a senior vice-president at Sotheby’s.
‘You see many facets of Sinatra you wouldn’t normally see as a fan,’ said Mari-Claudia Jimenez, a senior vice-president at Sotheby’s. Photograph: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

Sinatra lavished his wife with expensive jewellery, with many pieces included in the sale. “He would put $100,000 necklaces in her pockets to find,” Jimenez said.

There are Sinatra’s personal scripts from the films he starred in, such as From Here to Eternity and The Manchurian Candidate, and the jacket he had made for himself and his friends inscribed with “USA drinking team”.

The singer and actor’s own paintings are also on display - mostly abstract shapes and colors, along with images of clowns.

“He always had painting studios in his homes … It’s what he used to do to relax. In his down time he would paint,” Jimenez said. “He related very much to clowns, and the idea that they had to wear a mask and be happy all the time.”

Sinatra commissioned Rockwell to paint him in 1973. The portrait – called Sinatra, an American Classic – hung in a place of honor in the couple’s home.

The orange flight jacket – Sinatra’s favorite color – that he wore on his private plane is up for sale, along with his orange-accented golf clubs and balls monogrammed with his name.

He was a member of Hilcrest country club - known as LA’s Jewish golf club, which he joined to make a statement about religious tolerance. He also had a yarmulke inscribed with “Frank”.

John F Kennedy gave Sinatra a first edition copy of Profiles in Courage, signed with a personal inscription. The two had a falling out after JFK took office, and Sinatra changed parties and became a Republican. He was pals with Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, collecting jackets and a medal from Reagan’s inaugural gala which are up for sale.

Auctions are scheduled for December for the collection, known as Lady Blue Eyes – also the title of Barbara Sinatra’s bestselling memoir. A portion of the proceeds will go to the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center in Rancho Mirage, California.


Erin Durkin in New York

The GuardianTramp

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