Seminar | Collecting Ancien Régime France from Boston

Posted in lectures (to attend) by Editor on May 10, 2017

François Boucher, Halt at the Spring, 1765, oil on canvas, 82 × 114 inches
(Boston: MFA, 71.2)

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Seminars in the History of Collecting
David Pullins | Collecting Ancien Régime France from Boston between 1789 and 1848
The Wallace Collection, London, 22 May 2017

This seminar addresses the opportunities provided by revolutions in France for Boston collectors James Swan and Edward Preble Deacon—Swan in 1789 and Deacon in the 1840s—to gather French royal furnishings and paintings of the highest calibre. Swan (1754–1831) served as the official United States agent to the French revolutionary government between 1794 and 1796. He supplied grain, ammunition and sundry goods for which he was willing to receive, in lieu of cash, confiscated royal furniture, textiles and metalwork. At the end of the 1840s, at a time of political unrest in France, Deacon (1813–1851) acquired for his Boston home François Boucher’s monumental Halt at the Spring (1765) and Return from the Market (1767) and exceptional panelling designed by Claude-Nicolas Ledoux for the hotel Montmorency (c. 1770), which had been demolished in 1848.

The Swan and Deacon collections come remarkably early in the history of collecting ancien régime material culture in the Americas and provided the foundation of the European holdings of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. In this seminar, I propose to look in particular at how exemplary works from ancien régime France were installed in expressly built Boston interiors and how these collections were perceived in early America through an examination of journals and the popular press. Embodying a level of craftsmanship to which early American industrialists could only aspire, they also held a peculiar political status as plunder from a royalist faction—albeit one that had, within living memory, helped the United States secure its independence from the British monarchy.

The Wallace Collection Lecture Theatre, Monday, 22 May, 5:30pm.

Dr David Pullins (History, Theory Criticism, Department of Architecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and The Frick Collection).



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