NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Artwork, furniture, silver and decorative objects from the collections of philanthropists Lily and Edmond Safra is expected to sell for more than $40 million, Sotheby's said on Monday.
The four-day auction in New York from October 18-21 is the second auction from the collections of Safra, a Beirut-born billionaire financier whose family business dated to the Ottoman Empire.
He died in 1999 in a mysterious fire at his home in Monaco. His American male nurse Ted Maher was convicted of the arson death in 2002.
Since his death Lily Safra said she had focused her energies on the couple's foundation.
"I feel it is now time to allow others the opportunity to enjoy these treasures, with the hope that they will inspire new collectors," she said in a statement.
Sotheby's earlier two-day sale of property from the couple's extensive holdings in 2005 set the auction house's record for a decorative arts collection with a total of $49 million.
Sotheby's International Chairman Robin Woodhead described the collection as one of the finest assembled in the 20th century.
"Lily and Edmond Safra's collecting passion was directed toward the most important works of art, where beauty and rarity were the cornerstones," he said. "True collectors, they brought together only the best and created magical settings that were as comfortable as they were refined."
The sale comprises six sections, led by European furniture and works of art and Russian art. Other sessions include silver, Cosway (book) bindings, 19th-century watercolors and European decorative arts.
Highlights include a Louis XVI Ormolu-mounted Japanese lacquer commode attributed to Adam Weisweiler, which is estimated to sell for as much as $7 million, and a Louis XV lacquer commode attributed to French furniture maker B.V.R.B., which is expected to sell for up to $5 million.
A pair of Imperial porcelain vases featuring portraits of Russian Emperor Nicholas I and Empress Alexandra Fedorovna from the late 1830s could fetch as much as $2.5 million.
The couple is known for their philanthropic work, including building Jerusalem's Safra Square and donations to the Louvre in Paris, where a gallery bears their name.
Their foundation supports research into neurodegenerative diseases, as well as several AIDS organizations and charities for children in Israel, Romania and Africa.
The collection will go on public display in New York starting on October 14.
(Reporting by Chris Michaud; editing Patricia Reaney)