More than 300 items once owned by Newman and Woodward will hit Sotheby’s New York and virtual auction blocks between May 31 and June 12. Most of the lots feature the sorts of items common in celebrity estate auctions: film and entertainment memorabilia, fine art and antique furniture, jewelry and watches, clothing, costumes and various household ephemera.
The collection as a whole—which will go on the block as part of three sales: Important Watches, A Life & Legacy: The Joanne Woodward & Paul Newman Collection and High Speed: Paul Newman’s Racing Legacy—“offers further insight into who they were beyond their glamorous Hollywood personas,” said members of the Newman Woodward family in a statement.
And how! A brief tour through the lots provides ample proof of the couple’s admiration for 19th-century American folk art portraiture and 18th-century American and English furniture. It showcases Woodward’s love of ballet, Newman’s absolute passion for motorsports and their shared tendency to hold on to scripts and other souvenirs from their time on stages and Hollywood sets.
The collection also, according to Sotheby’s, includes “mementos from their love story.” Indeed, among the lots you’ll find Joanne Woodward’s charming wedding dress and bespoke honeymoon luggage set, the couple’s André Giraud & Brousseau wedding service and a framed needlepoint square commemorating their 1958 nuptials.
It’s quite sweet—a rather romantic but overall benign look at the stars’ homey personal lives. Until, that is, you come to Lot 171: The Infamous Bed from the Memoir, Paul Newman: The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Man. There’s no doubt that the late actor was the sex symbol of his day, but according to his posthumously published memoir, he didn’t feel much like the sex symbol he was purported to be until he met Woodward. He wrote: “Joanne gave birth to a sexual creature. We left a trail of lust all over the place. Hotels and public parks and Hertz Rent-A-Cars.”
You can add to that eyebrow-raising list the Infamous Bed, an early 20th-century cast-brass and iron bedframe that Woodward bought secondhand after their honeymoon, painted in light cream and topped with a new Sealy mattress. She put it in one of the rooms of their Beverly Hills home before showing it to Newman. “’I call it the Fuck Hut,’ she said proudly. [The room] had been done with such affection and delight. Even if my kids came over, we’d go into the Fuck Hut several nights a week and just be intimate and noisy and ribald,” Newman wrote.
But back to the auction-at-large.
“It is a testament to our parents’ powerful way of leaving an imprint on everyone and everything they touched, which we hope the public will cherish,” the Woodward Newman family continued in their statement. Indeed, there’s something for everyone to cherish here, from Newman racing obsessives and fans of Woodward’s films to art and antique collectors to those among us still captivated by Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward’s beautiful, surprisingly carnal and, above all, enduring romance.
The World of Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman will be open to the public at Sotheby’s New York galleries from June 1 through June 11 as part of Sotheby’s Luxury Week.