The beautiful screen star and multitalented stage performer Daliah Lavi (1942-2017) knew what she wanted to be early in life. At age ten, she met Kirk Douglas, who was on location for a film shoot in Israel, where Lavi was born, and told him she wanted to be a dancer. Douglas persuaded her parents to send the young performer to Sweden to study ballet. Ten years later, Lavi played Douglas’s love interest in a Vincente Minnelli movie. Later in the sixties, she starred opposite Peter O’Toole in an adaptation of James Conrad’s classic novel, Lord Jim, and appeared in a string of European and American movies throughout the decade. Anyone who saw the ravishing Lavi in the vividly psychedelic 1967 James Bond spy comedy, Casino Royale—which featured a diverse, star-studded cast that included Woody Allen, Deborah Kerr, David Niven, Peter Sellers, and Orson Welles—will recall her bewitching allure as “The Detainer,” one of the movie’s several iterations of 007.
Lavi’s appeal far surpassed her looks, however—in fact, she always had her sights set beyond Hollywood. Intelligent, cultured, and as gifted and talented as she was beautiful, she was fluent in five languages, and after her screen heyday Lavi became a successful singer in Germany, scoring hits in the popular schlager music tradition. She also had an astute eye for fashion and art—Lavi recognized beauty as surely as she possessed it—and not only acquired pieces by famous designers but also sought out up-and-coming designers, as well, including Badgley Mischka in that label’s earliest days. The Winter Quarterly auction features ten gowns from Lavi’s personal collection, as well as numerous pieces of her jewelry.
Lavi’s educated, roving eye was also drawn to Asian art; we are delighted to offer numerous examples from her collection. Especially captivating is a circa-1700 silver and jade ewer, inlaid with turquoise and coral, of Tibetan or Mongolian provenance. The ewer’s beauty is at once opulent and elegant, just like its owner—whose likeness is included in the auction itself: a trio of rare and original movie posters featuring Lavi’s image. At the time of her passing, Daliah Lavi was a resident of Asheville, settled there and married for forty years, a mother and grandmother, and we are honored to offer a range of beautiful pieces from the collection of an esteemed citizen of both North Carolina and the world.