Collectors: A Beautician's Booty

The late Polish-born cosmetics czarina, Helena Rubinstein, was a passionate pack rat. As some women accumulate lipsticks, she collected silverware, Oriental rugs, miniature period furniture, African art and dolls. She also owned works by the greatest French painters of her day. When she died last year at the age of 94, she left four homes—in Manhattan, Greenwich, Conn., London and Paris—each packed with masterpieces and exquisite junk.

Just to move her collection through the auction halls last week required eight separate sales in seven days. Said an appraiser for New York's Parke-Bernet Galleries, after picking through her 26-room Manhattan triplex...