A writer, model, socialite and the epitome of the modern woman, Edith Bouvier Beale continues to serve as a muse, even after her death in 2002. She's since inspired a Tony Award-winning musical, an HBO movie, and a song by Rufus Wainwright. And long before she set the precedent for modern-day shabby chic in the Maysles brothers' 1976 documentary Grey Gardens, Little Edie faithfully documented her affluent youth during the Roaring Twenties in her 1929 childhood diary, poetically dubbed I Only Mark the Hours that Shine. Set against a backdrop of salons, theaters, exclusive clubs and private beaches, Little Edie's passionate account primes the canvas for her equally unusual and fascinating adulthood.
Photo used with the permission of Eva Beale
Little Edie's niece Eva Beale and the Beale family continue to preserve Little Edie's legacy with Grey Gardens Collections, a lifestyle luxury brand inspired by the life of Edith Bouvier Beale, which even has its own Facebook page. (Read my HuffPost interview with the surviving Beales.) Eva Beale offers some background on the photo that's up for auction in her own words:
Andy Warhol's Exposures (Grosset and Dunlap, New York, 1979) includes a chapter on the Beales, which is the origin of the photograph of Little Edie that Christie's is auctioning April 5. In the book, Warhol published a photograph of Little Edie from the same series that we are offering in the auction. Warhol named the chapter "The Best Family," and he began his introduction to the Beales by writing, "I think the best family in the world is the Kennedy-Onassis-Bouvier-Beale-Radziwill family." Warhol mentioned that they had so many great characteristics and listed them all, including "Edie Jr." herself, whom we all know as "Little Edie." He wrote that just as Jackie and Lee were the best sister-act in town, Big Edie and Little Edie were the best mother-daughter act. Warhol found the Beales intriguing, and he seemed to enjoy the element of surprise that surrounded them. In Exposures, he discussed Big Edie's funeral and a speech from the priest, who then pushed a button to play the song "We Belong Together," which Big Edie had recorded in her operatic voice while she was alive. Warhol visited Grey Gardens a few years before Big Edie died, and went into her bedroom. "Even though she was in her seventies, she was beautiful," he wrote. "She had a lot of pure white hair, a beautiful straight nose, and big blue eyes." He recounted how Little Edie came into the bedroom and wrote that "her head was wrapped in a scarf because she shaved her hair off years ago..." Warhol also remarked: "She looked very glamorous in that brown silk scarf." This is the scarf that she is wearing in the Christie's photo. Happy bidding! ( Eva Beale)
Along with the auctioned photo itself, here's a marvelous gallery of Little Edie from Grey Gardens, all courtesy of Grey Gardens Collections.
(Portions of this article were originally published on Flavorwire)