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In Art, Decor on
November 25, 2017

Auction Preview: The Peggy & David Rockefeller Collection

The name Rockefeller is often taken as synonymous with collector and in the spring of 2018, Christie’s will offer the exquisitely expansive treasury of Peggy and David Rockefeller at auction. They have just unveiled a few highlights from the collection which started its global tour in Hong Kong over the weekend and I had to share the finery! From almost priceless works of art to incredible dinner services, the sale of these esteemed items will contribute to the most significant philanthropic auction ever held. Ready for a glimpse of the goods?

Decadent Dessert Service

Rockefeller Collection Highlights

Red and Sky Blue never looked so rich!

Made especially for Emperor Napoleon I of France by Sèvres porcelain, this ‘Marly Rouge’ dessert service boasts a fascinating provenance and delicious details. Papillons et fleurs decorate two sugar bowls, an ice-pail and the rest of the service created between 1807-09. It lived briefly at the palace of Fontainebleau and was brought with Napoleon to exile on the island of Elba. This rare delivery has not been seen on the art market for 75 years since Abby Aldrich Rockefeller acquired the pieces and it is estimated to bring in $150,000-250,000.

Make it a Monet

Highlights from the Peggy and David Rockefeller Collection

Claude Monet, Nymphéas en Fleur, oil on canvas, 63″ x 71″. Estimated at $35,000,000.

Acquired by Peggy and David in 1956 from a Parisian dealer with the guidance of MoMa’s first director, Alfred Barr, this striking rendition of the garden at Giverny is one of the largest canvases Claude Monet ever worked on. During World War I, Monet had a period of inspired creativity in which he created gloriously vibrant pieces celebrating the splendor of his beloved home. Most likely painted in late afternoon, the dark purple waters and glowing white lillies drew the Rockefellers in immediately. David Rockefeller had the distinct experience of watching his mother, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, co-found the Museum of Modern Art and subsequently developed his keen eye for fine art.

Rose Period Pick

A Rose Period Pablo Picasso piece from the Rockefeller Collection offered by Christie's

Fillette à la Corbeille Fleurie, 1905. Image courtesy of 2017 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

This gorgeous ode to the bohemian lifestyle of the early 20th century by Pablo Picasso hung in the Rockefeller’s New York townhouse library for decades. It came to be theirs when David assembled a group of prominent art collectors to purchase pieces from the renown Gertrude Stein collection. Numbers written on slips of paper were tossed into a hat, Rockefeller serendipitously picked “1” and was able to secure he and Peggy’s first choice, Young Girl with a Flower Basket. The two had a rule when buying art that they both had to like the piece before purchasing it and that little caveat served them well as collectors!

The Golden God

Buddhist God A Highlight from the Christie's Rockefeller Collection Auction

At just 16.5″ tall, this gilt-bronze homage to the god Amitayus is an exquisite example of Imperial artisanship.

The Rockefeller family’s strong ties to Asia, both cultural and charitable, are to thank for the bevy of significant artifacts from the region in their collection. Take, for example, this astounding mostly gold and brass statue of Amitayus, the god of long life in Chinese Buddhism. It was commissioned by the Kangxi Emperor during his reign from 1662 to 1722 and crafted in an imperial workshop. It is estimated to be in the $400,000-600,000 range and would look quite nice on a mantle, don’t you think?

Posh Porcelain

China Trade Rockefeller Pattern Porcelain from Christie's

The collection, comprising a special pair of fruit coolers, is estimated to be between $100,000-150,000.

Dinner party guests of Peggy and David’s would have been treated to courses served on Chinese export porcelain emblazoned with the “Rockefeller pattern.” It is the most elaborate pattern of all the great China Trade produced dinner services with sepia and gilt borders ensconcing intricate Chinese scenes, each one unique. Once belonging to David’s parents Abby and John D. Rockefeller, Jr. he and his brother Nelson enjoyed adding pieces to the large collection over the years. It’s so nice to hear of fine china actually being used, if those plates could talk I’m sure they’d have vivid tales of fabulous parties past!

Matisse Masterpiece

Henri Matisse piece offered by Christie's as part of the Rockefeller Collection

Oil on canvas. 23″ x 31″, estimated at $50 million. Image courtesy of 2017 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Drumroll please… This is the most significant Matisse work to be up for auction in a generation, as well as the highest estimated work of Henri’s to ever grace the bidding block. Painted in 1923, this piece was a special opportunity for Matisse to introduce his best work for comparison against that of past masters. The reclining female is said to have been one of the greatest paintings by the artist to be owned privately. Rich brushwork and brilliant hues made Odalisque Couchée aux Magnolias a standout in the Rockefeller’s Hudson Pines Home.

Son David, Jr. says the upcoming auction is ‘an extraordinary opportunity for the Peggy and David Rockefeller collection to be sold and the revenue used to support the important institutions that they supported in their lifetimes.’

Son David, Jr. says the upcoming auction is ‘an extraordinary opportunity for the Peggy and David Rockefeller collection to be sold and the revenue used to support the important institutions that they supported in their lifetimes.’ Image courtesy of Christie’s New York/Arthur Lavine/Rockefeller Estate.

Although these auction highlights don’t exactly inspire dreams of finding a Rockefeller steal or deal, fear not! Christie’s will be offering treasures from porcelains to jewels with bid estimates starting at just $200. You can begin placing bids on the historied Peggy and David Rockefeller collection next spring with live auctions taking place at Christie’s Rockefeller Center Galleries or online. Get your paddles ready, dears, it’s all for a good cause!

In Art on
August 9, 2017

Muffy the Curator: Punchy Hued Edition

Hello dears! Today I’m sharing some fabulous fine art pieces worth pining over. Collectively, they run the gamut in medium, genre, price point and even the century they were painted in. Something for every wall, non? I’ve had bright colors on the brain so it’s no surprise these picks are big on the bold factor. See something you like? All of them are available for sale!

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Paul Brown, Goal Miles- 1st Period, 3rd Game, colored pencil over paper, heightened with white, 10″ x 10.5″ 1928.

A special piece from late equestrian artist Paul Desmond Brown’s smashing series International Polo Argentina vs. USA (Copa de las Americas). All the works in this series are teeming with excited energy and have a well manipulated palette. I am especially drawn to this one, available from Chisholm Gallery here.

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Susan Vecsey, Untitled (Orange/Pink/Gold), oil on linen, 38″ x 30″ 2016.

The investment abstract! A soothing composition that you could stare at all day from artist Susan Vecsey. All her pieces are soft but extra striking; the perfect combination in my book. You can see her work in person at the Sag Harbor Library through September 4th or catch her solo show in Jackson Hole, Wyoming hanging at Tayloe Piggott Gallery through September 30th. (Estimating by another piece of hers that’s similar size wise, this particular work is most likely around $16,000) Care to know more about Untitled? It is available on 1st Dibs through Berry Campbell Gallery.

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Mary Rountree Moore, Time for Fun! oil on canvas, 48″ x 48″ $6,800

The title of this next work says it all, it’s just so fun! Vacillating between the realism of a landscape and the deconstructed nature of an abstract, this colorful beauty is exquisitely eye-catching. You can find this Moore majesty at Blue Print in Dallas, I’m so impressed with their roster of artists.

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Jen Garrido, CS Study-2, mixed media on paper, 13″ x 12″ $360 2017

It was love at first sight when I spotted a Jen Garrido abstract while browsing through Pinterest one evening. I immediately went to her website and was pleased to see she had a bevy of her geometric yet fluid works on paper for sale. If you’re looking for a large scale work for a space but don’t have thousands to plunk down for a big canvas, consider a series of works on paper. A grouping of four or six with fabulous frames can have just as big an impact visually.

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Mike Ludlow, Only Ballantine Ale Brews “Brewers Gold,” ad illustration, gouache on board, 20″ x 17.5″ ca. 1957

Adding a touch of history to your home with an older work is so charming. This grown-up Norman Rockwell meets Pop Art piece would be perfect over a bar and can be counted on to be quite the conversation starter. It is available on ArtNet via Robert Funk Fine Art, price upon request.

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Gina Julian, Sunshine Dust I, acrylic on acid-free paper, 17″ x 22″ $75

There’s something so gleefully modern about Gina Julian’s artwork. I’ve been a fan for a couple of years and I’m just smitten with her larger op-art pieces. Bring the sunshine in with a couple of these superbly priced works on paper flanking a set of nightstands or add this lone lovely to your gallery wall. Snap it up here while you can!

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Shara Hughes, Leaky Toilet, oil on canvas, 56″ x 70″ estimated at $8,000-12,000 2005.

If you’re looking for funky, bold and different, this Shara Hughes work delivers! Featured on the cover of the Christie’s First Open auction catalog, I’m sure it has sold but I can’t confirm. The First Open: Post-War & Contemporary Art sale is Christie’s answer to burgeoning fine art collectors looking for investment works that are tangible. The sale mixes “affordable” contemporary pieces curated with Post-War work from the biggest names in art. 

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Kelley Ogburn, Figure VI, mixed media on paper, 10″ x 7″ $300

A good figure is hard to come by, pun intended! You don’t need to cut out carbs to have a magnificent one looking back at you everyday, just hang this one in your powder room. Kelley Ogburn’s works are a total treat, see for yourself here. I really enjoy her mix of mediums and strong compositions; her figures are a sight to behold in person.

Thanks for indulging my punchy hued art round-up! I’ll be donning my Muffy Curator hat more often so if there’s anything in particular you’ve been searching for, let me know.

 

In Art on
July 2, 2017

A Patriotic Portrait: The Washington Family

Washington-Family-Portrait

Happy Fourth of July weekend, dear readers! In honor of our country’s great history I’m sharing a phenomenal portrait of George Washington and his family by artist Edward Savage. Taking 7 years to complete, it was worked on tirelessly by Savage from 1789-1796. Beyond just a portrait of our First Family, each brushstroke is an invitation to discover a plethora of interesting art history tidbits. Let’s take a closer look-see, shall we?

Fabulous Figures

Seated elegantly at Mount Vernon, we immediately recognize George Washington. Next, we can spy Martha Washington and two children. George and Eleanor, the youngest subjects, are the grandchildren of Martha later adopted by President Washington as legal heirs and raised as his own.

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George Washington’s distinguished study.

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The younger George Washington, sporting the worst colonial haircut.

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Eleanor and Martha Washington.

William Lee, their house servant, stands in the background dressed in finery. An off-putting portrayal and dark reminder of our past, Mr. Lee secures a rightful place painted into history.

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William Lee.

Each subject sat for Savage several times in 1789 and 1790 in New York City, then the United States capital. Over the next 7 years, he masterfully wove all his drawings together to create this painting that is 9 feet wide and boasts figures that are almost life-size.

Pops of Patriotism

The curtains are pulled back to give the viewer a grand glimpse of the Potomac River from a window at Mount Vernon. George Washington dons his military uniform, an ode to his service as a general and reminder that he led the Continental army to victory over Great Britain during the Revolutionary War. His black hat and sword lay across a map on the table.

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Washington’s uniform finery reaffirm his military contributions.

Eleanor and the First Lady draw our attention to this large map of Washington DC, the nation’s next capital. When this portrait was being painted, DC was a malarial swamp and on the map we can see plans for avenues and canals are laid out where dirt roads existed. Martha uses her closed fan to point directly at Pennsylvania Avenue, right where the White House will be built.

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A well-laid plan of Washington DC.

Divine Details

It’s quite hard to believe that Edward Savage was a self-taught artist given his incredible mastery of fabrics. Take a look at the shimmering satin on Martha Washington’s dress, magnificent!

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Satin never looked so good!

Her lace shawl and the rich red of the brocade chairs they sit upon are extra masterful.

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Beautiful pattern play.

Portrait Provenance

In 1798, Savage made his fortune on this painting by turning it into an engraving. He had over 400 subscribers including the portrait sitter himself, George Washington, who purchased 4 copies. Over the years, the painting would change hands through estate inheritances and sales. “The Washington Family” was a part of private collections, on display at small museums and government societies before finding its way to The National Gallery of Art in DC. A very fitting forever home for this monumental glimpse into our American history! (All images are courtesy of the NGA.)

I’m off to prep for our lunch tomorrow, below is my tablescape if you need a little last minute inspiration. Wherever you may be spending Independence Day be it beachside, mountainside or even abroad, I hope your 4th is fantastic!

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I just love classic Americana for the 4th!

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These table settings are ready for some American eats!

 

p.s. If you’re in the company of a fellow art-loving relative or friend, please do send them over to stuffymuffy.com. Thank you, thank you!

 

In Art, Musings, Travel on
June 4, 2017

Ladies of Venice: Art, Decadence and Eccentricities

On the storied waterfront of Venice sits an unfinished palazzo that houses the Peggy Guggenheim collection but, in its former life, it was residence to three of the last century’s most fascinating female personalities. Drawn to the diminutive neutral palace set against ornate neighboring villas, Marchesa Luisa Casati, Lady Doris Castlerosse and Peggy Guggenheim would make the place their own, respectively. What was the charm of Palazzo Venier dei Leoni that beckoned its famous buyers?

Palazzo Venier dei Leoni on Stuffy Muffy

Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, home of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

A lofty architectural feat started by one of Venice’s most noble families in the 1750s boasted plans of five floors and a magnificent facade. Ill-fated from the beginning, Palazzo Venier dei Leoni was never completed except for the ground floor. The Venier family ran out of funds and there are rumors that the neighboring Corner family put a stop to its construction in fear that it would be as grand as their own villa. No one puts the Corners in the corner! Perhaps the most interesting tidbit about the history of the palace is the giant lion that roamed the gardens, an ode to the “leoni” in its title.

The Avant-garde Heiress

Luisa Casati Venice on Stuffy Muffy

Luisa Casati dressed to the nines and two escorts. Photo by Mariano Fortuny, Museo Fortuny.

The palazzo fell into many hands in the years to come, time taking its toll on its exterior and interior, until it caught the eye of the Italian Marchesa Luisa Casati. Romanced by its neglected facade, she purchased the palace in 1910 and swiftly got to work reimagining the inside. Marble! Gold! Glass! She packed it all in and wasted no time outfitting the gardens with parrots, albino blackbirds she would dye whatever color she fancied and monkeys. Luisa’s most prized pet was a cheetah that would accompany her everywhere she went, becoming a fixture at her side at the lavish parties she would host.

Luisa Casati Venice on Stuffy Muffy

The Marchesa and her pet cheetah in the center of party goers at one of her masquerades, 1913. From the Casati Archives.

This was just the tip of the iceberg of eccentricities that the Marchesa displayed. She wore outrageous costumes, shocked high society with her personal life and threw masquerade balls written about in every paper the world over. Venice was her stage, she the modern actress playing a different part every week. A patroness of the arts, Luisa played muse to notable artists such as Man Ray, Alberto Martini and Romaine Brooks. While keeping up with the tony art set, she squandered all her assets on museum-like homes, sumptuous couture and extravagant gatherings. She eventually had to sell her beloved palazzo and moved to London, evading creditors and the Fascist regime of Italy. She lived there in exile and passed away in 1957.

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One of the many portraits of Luisa Casati from her collection. From Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia.

The English Enchantress

Viscountess Castlerosse

Model Cara Delevingne’s great-aunt, Doris Viscountess Castleross, pictured in her sun suit posing for Sir John Lavery in Palm Springs.

With the palazzo up for grabs, a leggy English blonde snapped it up in 1936 intending to make a fresh start in Venice. Lady Doris Castlerosse had earned a reputation that was much more “mistress” than “enchantress” in London, seducing the likes of Cecil Beaton and Winston Churchill while marrying her way up the ranks of society. She overhauled the palace into a glossy haven fit for a salonniere, hosting party after party that boasted guests like Prince Philip of Greece. From the palazzo’s stuccoed walls hung exquisite antique frames and sconces while guests were treated to bold black marble bathrooms. With the close proximity to Rome, Lady Doris would travel there and buy couture shoes 200 pairs at a time. She was the new social tour de force in Venice until the war broke out, ending her good time on the Grand Canal and leading to her unfortunate overdose in 1942. 

Doris Castlerosse in Venice

Doris Castlerosse outside the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, 1936. From her private collection.

The Grand Patroness

Peggy Guggenheim Venice

Peggy Guggenheim soaking up Venice with her pooches.

During the war, soldiers occupied the palazzo and it became a shell of the once luxurious salon Luisa and Doris had cultivated. Peggy Guggenheim found it in its graffitied condition and took a chance on the crumbling structure. It hurts my heart to report that Peggy took down all of the gorgeous decorative touches the two women had installed and pared down the palace to a light and simple interior. What we can be grateful for is her incredible collection of art on the white walls and foresight as a patroness. While reading her memoir it became evident that it was not easy to transport works in a war ravaged continent and many pieces spent time in hiding. Peggy was determined to have it all culled together in the palazzo and she eventually succeeded, giving us the modern day Peggy Guggenheim Collection.

Peggy Guggenheim Collection

Peggy in her Palazzo. Image via INVenice.

The grande dame of Venice spent 30 years there. She rode around in a gondola donning her signature wild sunglasses, sunbathed in the nude on her rooftop (which was much lower than all the other rooftops!) and gathered likeminded visionaries at her famous dinner parties. If one attended a Peggy Guggenheim event you’d be dining with the likes of Truman Capote, Jean Cocteau and artist Arshile Gorky. If you visit Palazzo Venier dei Leoni today, soak up the view, study the art and try to image the wild creatures that once roamed the garden; Luisa, Doris and Peggy included!

While Peggy’s life lives on through her artful legacy, Luisa and Doris serve as cautionary tales of spoiled excess. What all three females did have in common was a joie de vivre spirit that saw them making their own a palace that was originally built to celebrate male achievement. If only the Venier men could have seen what became of the palazzo!

Summer reading suggestions:

  • If you’re interested in a broader history of these women and their connection to the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, be sure to dive right into The Unfinished Palazzo: Life, Love and Art in Venice by Judith Mackrell, available for pre-order.
  • I read Peggy Guggenheim’s memoir last summer and it was incredibly interesting. I will warn you, she is a bit flippant about the war but delves into her childhood, love affairs and passion for art in a way that will have you turning the pages.