When Bunny Mellon died at age 103 on March 17th, she was the last embodiment of a Gilded Age lifestyle. Born into money (her grandfather invented Listerine), she married into even more money (the Mellon banking and oil fortune) and went on to build, decorate and preside over six luxurious homes in Washington, New York, Paris, Antigua, Cape Cod and Nantucket. She treated her pricy possessions as a casual backdrop to her daily life, including an unframed Van Gogh, “Green Wheat Fields, Auvers,” she propped upon her living room fireplace mantel.
Bunny Mellon operated in the intersecting arenas of politics, art and fashion, mingling with Presidents, Queens, Duchesses, Hollywood actors, couturiers, artists and Russian ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin. She was on intimate terms with the giants of her era: when she wanted to deal with lingering childhood insecurities and a difficult marriage, she went into analysis in the 1940’s with Carl Jung. Bunny reveled in putting amusing people together, such as giving a small luncheon to introduce Princess Diana and Prince Charles to America’s royalty, Jacqueline Onassis and her children, Caroline and John Kennedy.
An ardent gardener who created the Rose Garden at the behest of her dear friend Jacqueline Kennedy, a savvy art collector, a discerning self-taught decorator who gave advice to her Foxcroft classmate Sister Parish, Bunny became revered for her style and good taste. Everything she did made news: creating a gardening fad for miniature topiaries; giving her blessing to fledgling artists and designers; turning up at her husband Paul Mellon’s side to watch his thoroughbred, Arts and Letters, win the Belmont Stakes.
Yet Bunny Mellon deliberately cultivated an air of mystery. Regal and intimidating, mischievous and effervescent, the soul of discretion, she cherished her ability to wield influence in a quiet behind-the-scenes way, until now. In this illuminating biography, written by bestselling author Meryl Gordon, readers will finally get to know the real Bunny Mellon.