She was a reluctant Hamptons socialite who turned her sprawling estate into a farm and delivered fresh eggs to her neighbors, but Rose de Rose was also a secret artist, whose works are now attracting a celebrity following.
Martha Stewart is already lining up to bid on de Rose’s intricately carved mahogany and oak panels that are being auctioned Sunday in Boston.
“She is the American Grinling Gibbons,” said Stewart, comparing de Rose to the 17th-century Dutch wood carver who is most famous for his work on Windsor Castle and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. “The artist [de Rose] carved beautifully in a variety of woods and has never been exhibited before. Now is our chance to own a little bit of Rose de Rose.”
De Rose’s woodcuts are part of an art trove that was found last year at the Southampton Hospital when workers cleared out a storage area to make space for COVID-related supplies. The trove, which was first revealed by The Post and was estimated to be worth up to $1 million, includes works by Alexander Calder and Willem de Kooning as well as other artists who had studios in the Hamptons and often donated works to the hospital’s annual fundraiser. All of the proceeds from Sunday’s auction will go to benefit the Southampton Hospital, said Frank Kaminski, whose auction house is selling the art.
“These are fabulous pieces of folk art,” said Kaminski, referring to the de Rose series of woodcuts of flowers and trees. “It’s like discovering a Van Gogh.”
Rose de Rose was born in 1902. Her father Edward de Rose made a fortune in coal, and her mother, Susan Varnum, was a descendent of Joseph Bradley Varnum, a general who served under George Washington in the Revolutionary War. She had a privileged upbringing, spending summers at the family’s 12-acre Southampton estate and attending Miss Spence’s School for Girls in New York. But after traveling the world with her mother, de Rose retreated to the family’s estate in Southampton where she became a recluse. She spent the rest of her life living in a small cottage on the property and raising pigs, ducks and chickens. Dressed in loose-fitting house dresses, she used to deliver eggs to her neighbors, and became known as “the egg lady” until her death in 1982.
“People love a find,” said designer Randolph Duke. “This is really like a great treasure hunt, and the story behind the objects is really incredible.”
Prices for the de Rose carvings begin at $100.