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Featured Collection: Leon Amar

From a modest upbringing in Casablanca to dining with the likes of Jacqueline Kennedy, Doris Duke and Gloria Swanson, Leon Amar has been a staple of the design world and international social scene for decades. As a young boy in Casablanca, he dreamed of coming to America and ultimately left for New York in 1953. 

Amar began his illustrious design career at Clarence House, New York, a leader in the decorative fabric industry and a top choice of design professionals. It was there that Amar met some of the most prominent interior decorators and their clients, such as Stephane Boudin of Jansen, Inc. and Jacqueline Kennedy. 

Henri Samuel, a master decorator and former assistant to Stephane Boudin, helped Leon land a coveted position at Jansen in the late 1960s under the directorship of Carlos Ortiz-Cabrera. James Abbott writes in Jansen, “Leon Amar, a talented designer born in Morocco, joined the firm, enhancing the modern-design capabilities of the office. Within less than a year, Jansen, Inc., had gone from almost exclusive espousal of 18th-century taste to a concentration on contemporary design.” Amar worked closely with Ortiz-Cabrera on various projects, including the penthouse at the Crillon Hotel for Bunny Mellon and 960 Fifth Avenue for Ailsa Mellon Bruce, Paul Mellon’s sister.  


Living room of Leon Amar's New York apartment

According to Abbott, Jansen founder Jean-Henri Jansen “[…] redefined the profession of decorator. The best designers operated not as servants but as social equals: dinner partners or weekend guests who maintained a keen eye for architecture, design and antiques. Jansen never decorated a house for a client, noted one employee; the firm’s staff ‘instead assisted the individual… [This] is why you rarely see a period credit assigned to a Jansen interior… We merely aided… It was not proper for one to overshadow a client.’” Amar adhered to this philosophy and received little recognition for the projects that he worked on during and after his time at Jansen.  

Actress and fashion icon Lucy Douglas “C.Z.” Guest, a Jansen client, introduced Leon Amar to tobacco heiress Doris Duke. The two were instantly enamored by one another, becoming friends and lovers. Leon left Jansen to work for Duke as the Vice President of her Southeast Asian Art and Culture Foundation (S.E.A.A.C.). He worked closely with her to open a museum dedicated to the foundation’s collection of Thai and Burmese art at Duke Farms, her family estate in New Jersey. A December 10, 1972 New York Times article reads, “Mr. Amar, who spent three months supervising the transfer of the 1,400 art pieces […] was also responsible for arranging the exhibit.” The pieces were to be transported from Hawaii to New Jersey, which was no small undertaking.

In addition to his work at the S.E.A.A.C., Amar assisted in restoring and decorating Doris Duke’s properties, including Duke Farms Residence and Gardens, Shangri La in Hawaii, Falcon Lair in Beverly Hills (the former home of Rudolph Valentino and Gloria Swanson) and Rough Point in Newport, Rhode Island (formerly the mansion of Frederick Vanderbilt and now an historic museum). 

Duke and Amar travelled the world together. A June 7, 1973 article from the Daily News titled “Docking with Baby Doc” offers a glimpse into this world. The article reads, “Jackie and Ari Onassis along with Caroline and John Kennedy, Geraldine and Andrew Fuller, tobacco heiress Doris Duke and Leon Amar all flew to Oliver Coquelin’s Habitation Leclerc in Haiti to spend a week at that hotel and pick up the yacht Christina O. The stunning party is dividing its days between Leclerc, once Pauline Bonaparte’s mansion, and the Onassis floating palace, complete with an El Greco, round pool and mosaic bidets.” 


Leon Amar's Palm Beach Library

Years later, Amar was in Marrakech to decorate a palace for a Spanish banker. The job fell through and he ended up meeting his future wife, Charlotte Igoe. Charlotte was one of the earliest fashion models to be photographed rather than sketched and appeared in numerous ads in high-profile publications such as Mayfair, Town & Country and Vogue. After Igoe’s first husband, newspaper publisher and oil and gas executive Francis X. Murphy, died in 1958, she became the first woman newspaper publisher in Canada. When her second husband, James V. Igoe, died in 1989, she assumed his seat on the New York Stock Exchange. Leon and Charlotte were married for 27 years. 

New Orleans Auction Galleries is pleased to offer fine art from the collection of Leon Amar, including works by Dietz Edzard. Drawn to the impressionistic qualities of the artist’s work, Amar’s eye for style is evident in his collection. 

Highlights from the Collection: 

Lot 208

Dietz Edzard 
(German/Paris, 1893-1963) 

"Repetition Sur Scene", ca. 1962 

oil on canvas 
signed lower right. 
Framed. 
24" x 28-3/4", framed 33" x 37-1/4" 

Estimate $7,000-10,000

Lot 199

Dietz Edzard 
(German/Paris, 1893-1963) 

"Nature Morte des Fleurs et d'un Masque", ca. 1958 

oil on canvas 
signed lower right, partially titled/inscribed on stretcher "Ga... a la rose bleue", frame backing with old sales/inventory label. 
Framed. 
21-3/4" x 18-1/4", framed 29" x 25-1/4"

Estimate $2,500-4,000

Lot 220

Suzanne Eisendieck 
(German/Paris, 1908-1998) 

"Ete, d'apres Renoir", ca. 1951-1953 

oil on canvas 
signed, titled and inscribed lower left, "Perls Galleries, New York" label on stretcher. 
Framed. 
23-3/4" x 28-3/4", framed 30-1/2" x 35-1/2"

Estimate $5,000-8,000

Lot 209

Dietz Edzard 
(German/Paris, 1893-1963) 

"Bal Masque a Venise", ca. 1961 

oil on canvas 
signed lower right. 
Framed. 
15-3/4" x 13", framed "23" x 20" 

Provenance: Christie's, New York, February 27, 1992, lot 22.

Estimate $2,000-4,000

Lot 207

Suzanne Eisendieck 
(German/Paris, 1908-1998) 

"Loges aux Varietes", ca. 1960 

oil on canvas 
signed lower right, titled en verso. 
Framed. 
32" x 25-1/2", framed 38-3/4" x 32-1/4"

Estimate $4,000-7,000

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