Eleanor Post Close (1909-2006) and her son Antal Post de Bekessy (1943-2015) belonged to an elegant dynasty of the American aristocracy which revolutionized the food trade at the end of the 19th century. Their name is an important part of the history of the United States. Over generations, the Post family constituted extraordinary collections and offered the Americans an impressive cultural heritage.
The extravagant residencies owned by their mother and grand-mother Marjorie Merriweather Post, in particular Hillwood Mansion in Washington D.C., now open to the public thanks to her generosity, and Mar-A-Lago in Florida, continue to fascinate today.
Marjorie Merriweather Post (1887-1973) was the daughter and only child of Charles W. Post and the former Ella Letitia Merriweather. At age 27, when her father died, she became the owner of the rapidly growing Postum Cereal Company, founded in 1895. She became subsequently the wealthiest woman in the United States, with a fortune worth about US$250 million. In 1929, the company became the General Foods Corporation. Marjorie was a particularly smart business woman and also a convinced philanthropist, an enthusiastic empire builder and a great collector.
It was in Europe that Eleanor, always proud of her U.S. citizenship and origins, chose nevertheless to settle soon after the end of World War II. She first acquired a private mansion in Paris opening onto the Parc Monceau and then an elegant 18th century summer chateau on the banks of the River Seine that was inhabited by the comte d'Artois, later Charles X – the last Bourbon king. Later on, Eleanor expanded her connections to Europe by acquiring a hotel particulier in the Swiss city of Fribourg, where she spent much time with her late husband, the renowned conductor, Leon Barzin. An elegant woman of great culture, she regularly received in all of her houses art-lovers, music-lovers and aristocrats. This love of France which was reciprocal earned her the honor of being awarded the Légion d'honneur by the French state.
Following in her mother's footsteps, Eleanor Post Close asserted herself as a collector and demonstrated an assured taste. Over the years, she built up an impressive group of works that she placed with care in her different houses. Captivated by everything beautiful, the important collection of 18th century furniture and paintings that she brought together is thus enriched with modern and impressionist masterpieces, which each constitute an open window onto modernity. In her salons, Edouard Vuillard was presented next to Gustave Courbet and Nicolas de Largillière with Zao Wou-Ki : painters from different generations, as it were, engaged each other in continuous and harmonious dialogue.
Antal Post de Bekessy, who maintained homes in New-York and later Pennsylvania, frequently commuted to Europe and was honoured by the French Ministry of Culture for his efforts in support of the preservation and appreciation of French art and architecture. At the same time, Antal was an avid collector of art, embracing both 19th century romanticism and 20th century modernism, with a special emphasis on the art of Austria. He paid homage to the Austro-Hungarian roots of his father, the writer Janos de Bekessy also known as Hans Habe, including in his collection works of the Viennese Secession group such as Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt.
This small group constituted of high quality works testifies to the taste of Eleanor Post Close and her son Antal Post de Bekessy. It announces the dispersion of this fascinating family collection by Sotheby's in Paris on the 19th and 20th of December on the occasion of the "Une dynastie Américaine en Europe" auction.
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