Portrait by Nicolas de Largillierre Returns to Hillwood

Posted in museums by Editor on April 10, 2018

Press release via Art Daily:

Nicolas de Largillierre, Portrait of Monsieur de Puysegur, likely Jacques-François de Chastenet, Marquis de Puysegur, oil on canvas, 136 × 105.5 cm (Washington, D.C.: Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens). The painting was purchased at Sotheby’s in Paris in December 2017 for 345,000€, surpassing its high estimate of 80,000€ (Lot 609 of sale PF1730).

Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens in Washington, D.C. announces the acquisition of the painting Portrait of Monsieur de Puysegur, likely Jacques-François de Chastenet, Marquis de Puysegur, by Nicolas de Largillierre (1656–1746) from Sotheby’s sale of the collection of Eleanor Post Close (1909–2006), Marjorie Merriweather Post’s daughter, and her son Antal Post de Bekessy (1943–2015) in December 2017. The 54 × 42 inch oil on canvas painting, lot 609 of the auction, is a three-quarter length portrait of Monsieur de Puysegur, likely Jacques-François de Chastenet, Marquis de Puysegur.

“Like her mother, Eleanor Post Close was a discerning collector of remarkable objects,” said Hillwood executive director Kate Markert. “The sale of her collection, and this work in particular, presented a rare opportunity for Hillwood to acquire an excellent example of French portraiture, particularly because of its alignment with Hillwood’s collection and particularly because it was once in Marjorie Post’s collection.” Marjorie Merriweather Post was the founder of Hillwood, who left her Washington, D.C. home as a museum to benefit future generations.

Born in France, Largillierre was trained in Peter Lely’s atelier in England and became a renowned portraitist. Upon his return to Paris in 1679, he served as First Painter to King Louis XIV and depicted many royals and members of the European and French aristocracy, among them the Marquis de Puysegur. The sitter, framed by a classical column, is depicted wearing abundant drapery of shimmering fabrics while elegantly gesturing to his left, a testament to Largillierre’s technique and virtuosity.

First documented in France in 1902, the portrait was acquired at auction by Marjorie Post-Hutton in New York in 1922. In 1937, the portrait was recorded in the draft catalogue of Post’s art collection. It was first displayed in Post’s library in New York, then in the entrance hall at Tregaron, her first home in Washington, D.C., and finally in the second floor hall at Hillwood.

In 1964, Post sent the portrait to her daughter, Eleanor Close Barzin, in Paris, in exchange for the return of Nattier’s Portrait of the Duchess of Parma (acc. no. 51.4), which Marjorie had presented to Eleanor as a wedding present. In June 1984, Hillwood’s curator, Katrina V. H. Taylor, stated about the portrait of Monsieur de Puysegur that “the return of this painting would add to the interest of the collection at Hillwood.”

Thanks to the persistence and generosity of Ellen Charles, Post’s grand-daughter and president emerita at Hillwood, who attended the sale in person and memorably surpassed Hillwood’s maximum bid, the painting will return to Hillwood for good. “It was no surprise that this important portrait exceeded the estimated auction price,” said Charles. “I am thrilled and honored that I could be there in person and contribute to Hillwood’s important acquisition. I just felt that I had to bring it home.”

The painting will go through moderate conservation work, after which it will be displayed in the entry hall at Hillwood.

Hillwood Announces Two New Curatorial Appointments

Posted in museums by Editor on April 10, 2018

The paneling in the French Drawing Room of Hillwood dates to the reign of Louis XVI (1774–92) and now serves as a backdrop for a portion of Marjorie Merriweather Post’s collection of eighteenth-century French decorative arts.

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From the press release (20 February 2018) . . .

Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens in Washington, D.C. has appointed two new curators to manage, research, and publish on areas of Hillwood’s collection and further develop the dynamic special exhibitions program. Associate curator of 18th-century French and Western European fine and decorative arts, Rebecca Tilles will spearhead exhibitions, publications, and acquisitions related to Hillwood’s collection of 18th-century French and Western European art. Megan Martinelli Campbell, as the new assistant curator of apparel, jewelry, and accessories, will manage and research Hillwood’s collection of more than 175 dresses and over 300 accessories, all acquired and left to Hillwood by Marjorie Merriweather Post. Both curators began their work at HIllwood in February.

“Marjorie Post had a discerning eye for the finest and most important works of 18th-century France and imperial Russia and left them for the benefit of the public at Hillwood,” explained Dr. Wilfried Zeisler, Hillwood’s chief curator. “With great insight, she also left to Hillwood the most important examples of apparel and accessories she acquired over the years and today they offer added perspective into her life as a collector and connoisseur. We’re always learning more about these important areas of Hillwood’s collection, so we are thrilled that Rebecca and Megan will apply their exceptional backgrounds and talents to ensure the public continues to be educated and inspired as Post intended.”

Tilles is currently a doctoral candidate in art history at the University of Sussex, with a dissertation on the collection and collecting partnership of German-born banker and collector George Blumenthal (1858–1941) and his wife Florence Meyer (1873–1930) who together amassed an important collection of medieval, Renaissance, and 18th-century French works of art in both New York and France. Tilles completed substantial original research at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Library of Congress, and the Archives de Paris and Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Prior to her Ph.D. studies, Tilles was a curatorial research fellow in the art of Europe department at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where she assisted with the exhibitions Splendor and Elegance: European Decorative Arts and Drawings from the Horace Wood Brock Collection (2009) and Symbols of Power: Art of the Empire Style, 1800–1815 (2007). In 2007, she received a Master of Arts degree in European decorative arts from the Bard Graduate Center, where she completed her thesis on the reconstruction of Marie-Antoinette’s corbeille de marriage. She has a bachelor’s degree in French and French cultural studies from Wellesley College and has completed the third year of the Premier Cycle at the Ecole du Louvre, which included coursework in 17th-to 20th-century painting, decorative art, sculpture, and architecture.

Coming to Hillwood from the Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Campbell was previously a research assistant there, where she assisted with a complete assessment of the institute’s 19th- and 20th-century collections, researching and presenting hundreds of garments and accessories for curatorial consideration. She assisted with the installation of the special exhibitions Manus X Machina: Fashion in the Age of Technology (2016) and China: Through the Looking Glass (2015). Prior to the Costume Institute, Campbell worked with the historic textiles and costumes collection at The University of Rhode Island, where she selected and interpreted a rotation of objects for display. Her work in highlighting the influence of menswear on women’s clothing was incorporated into the exhibition, Subject to Change: Art and Design in the Twentieth Century. At the University of Rhode Island, she was also the co-curator and designer for the special exhibitions The Other White Dress: Non-Wedding Gowns of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (2014) and Five Rhode Island Families (2011). Campbell holds a Master of Arts and Sciences degree in textiles, fashion merchandising, and design from the University of Rhode Island and received her bachelor’s degree in English literature from Providence College.

In addition to conducting new research on their areas of Hillwood’s collection, the new curators are organizing upcoming exhibitions. Tilles’s first project at Hillwood is the exhibition Perfume and Seduction (working title). Opening February 2019, the special exhibition will showcase the finest examples of 18th-century perfume bottles, gold boxes, porcelain, figurines, and other luxury items from Hillwood’s collection, in conjunction with fine objects from the private European collection of Givaudan, the Swiss manufacturer of flavors, fragrances, and active cosmetic ingredients, founded in 1898 by the French brothers, Xavier (1867–1966) and Léon Givaudan (1875–1936). Campbell has taken over the organization of an exhibition of works by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, who famously photographed Marjorie Merriweather Post, in addition to a host of other important 20th-century figures, to open in June 2019.


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