From Mar-a-Lago to Paris: An American Dynasty in Europe

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The forthcoming sale An American Dynasty in Europe, The Eleanor Post Close and Antal Post de Bekessy Collections to be held in Paris on 19 and 20 December will showcase the finest in 18th Century decorative arts, furniture and paintings. Eleanor Post Close and her son Antal Post de Bekessy were members of a unique dynasty whose influence spanned several continents from the 18th Century to the present day. Eleanor's mother Marjorie Merriweather Post was sole heir to the General Food Company, which she inherited from her father, Charles W. Post, at the start of the 20th Century. With a keen eye for business as well as art, she built the palatial Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. Mrs. Post was known for her eclectic style, love of travel and passion for interiors and gardens, which she passed on to her daughter Eleanor, thus continuing the family legacy of collecting remarkable objects. Click through to see highlights from the sale and images from the family archive. 

An American Dynasty in Europe, The Eleanor Post Close and Antal Post de Bekessy collections
19 — 20 December 2017 | Paris

 

From Mar-a-Lago to Paris: An American Dynasty in Europe

  • © Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens Archives
    Marjorie Merriweather Post with her daughter Eleanor and grandson Antal.
    Eleanor Post Close (1909-2006) and her son Antal Post de Bekessy (1943-2015) were members of a unique dynasty whose influence spanned several continents from the 18th Century to the present day. Collectors and philanthropists, they settled in Europe in the middle of the 20th century and continued the aesthetic and cultural heritage they inherited from their mother and grandmother, the extraordinary Marjorie Merriweather Post.

  • WestImage - Art Digital Studio
    An enamelled gold, agate, sapphire and diamond frame, signed Cartier, engraved: 1934 Marjorie Post Davis, with an ivory portrait, in its case. Estimate: €20,000–30,000.
    Born in 1887, Marjorie Merriweather Post (1887-1973) was, in her time, the richest woman in the United States. She owed it to her father, Charles W. Post who founded Post Cereal Co, now named General Foods. His dietetic cereals and coffee substitute products were a huge success. In 1906, Charles W. Post acquired several tens of thousands of hectares of land in order to develop his production. He founded there a new city called Post City. Charles died in 1914, leaving behind him one unique successor his daughter Marjorie. She immediately started to use her fortune by founding a hospital in France for American soldiers who were victims of the First World War.

  • © Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens Archives. Photo by Edward Owen.
    Portrait of Marjorie Merriweather Post wearing an exceptional necklace by Cartier.
    A keen businesswoman, Marjorie also put together a large collection of French pieces as well as Russian artworks, most of them acquired at the end of the 1930s whilst living in Moscow with her husband Joseph E. Davies, the then US ambassador in Russia. Her particular appreciation of precious stones made her one of the best clients of Cartier who created exquisite jewels like this exceptional necklace made in 1936 accompanied by 70 Carat Sapphire ring.

  • © Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens Archives
    Hillwood Mansion, Washington D.C.
    Marjorie Merriweather Post was also a lover of architecture. She owned Hillwood Mansion which was a superb colonial house bought and refurbished in the 1920s. Marjorie owned several other residences: a large apartment with 50 rooms in New York, a summer residence in the Adirondacks and also the exceptional dwelling Mar-a-Lago in Florida.

  • © Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens Archives
    The Mar-a-Lago estate, Florida.
    The domain of Mar-a-Lago, located at the heart of a 7 hectares estate and overlooking the ocean was built by Marjorie Merriweather Post between 1924 and 1927. With more than 120 rooms that allowed the lady of the house to organise large receptions, this residence is still to date one of the biggest houses in the country. 

  • © Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens Archives
    Marjorie Merriweather Post with her daughter Nedenia (Dina Merill) on board the Sea Cloud, circa 1930.
    In 1931, Marjorie Merriweather Post initiated the construction of a ship of more than 360 feet long called the Hussar II, later renamed Sea Cloud in 1935. She cruised on this yacht through the oceans with her family and friends and you could see it sail in Hawaii, the Galapagos Islands as well as Monaco. Following the appointment of her husband Joseph E. Davies as US ambassador in Russia, the Sea Cloud dropped anchor in Leningrad and soon became the venue of many receptions. The 1943 Hollywood movie Mission to Moscow portrays this era. Soon after the start of the Second World War, Marjorie offered the Sea Cloud to the American president. The yacht first became a weather station and then later loaded with canons as a ship designed to hunt submarines.

  • © Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens Archives
    Marjorie Merriweather Post and her husband Joseph Davies with Duke and Duchess of Windsor on Sea Cloud.
    Marjorie Merriweather Post, later nicknamed by a biographer The American Empress, became acquainted with several royal families. She welcomed the Duke of Windsor, named Governor of the Bahamas, and his wife Wallis Simpson, many times. She made friends with her fellow American Julia Grant who became princess Cantacuzène-Speransky by marriage. She also offered her hospitality to the Grand Ducal Family of Luxembourg when they fled for the United States in 1940. 

  • © Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens Archives
    Marjorie's plane named The Merriweather.
    For business and pleasure, Marjorie travelled relentlessly through the United States and the whole world. She not only owned the biggest private yacht in the whole world but also a private jet, which she named after her deceased mother, The Merriweather. Travelling was a way for her to meet with her daughters, Adelaide, Eleanor and Nedenia, the latter also known under her acting name Dina Merill.

  • © Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens Archives. Photographed by James R. Dunlop Inc.
    Eleanor Post Close (1909-2006), art collector, patron and philanthropist.
    Born in 1909, Eleanor Post Close is the second daughter of Marjorie and Edward Benett Close. Marjorie gave her daughter a first class education by sending her to The Spence School, a school reserved for girls from prestigious families such as Titanic survivor Madeleine Astor, and more recently Gwyneth Paltrow. Eleanor soon joined the Miss Porter School where Agnes Gund, President Emerita of The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) , Nancy Princess of Greece, Jackie and Lee Bouvier, Nellie Grant (daughter of the president Ulysses Grant), Barbara Hutton and several members of the Vanderbilt and Rockfeller families also studied. This education was completed when she was introduced to society in 1927, and presented to King George V at Buckingham Palace.

  • Eleanor Post Close in her Parisian salon with her son Antal Post de Bekessy, nicknamed Tony.
    In 1942, Eleanor married a courageous journalist and Austrian-Hungarian novelist, Janos de Bekessy also known under the pseudonym of Hans Habe. A year later, she gave birth to their son, Antal Post de Bekessy whose godmother was nonetheless Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of the President of the United States. Eleanor Post Close, fascinated by lifestyle of Europeans, decided soon after the Second World War to move to Paris. She then acquired several residences in Europe in which she possessed extraordinary collections.

  • Eleanor Post Close’s hotel particulier rue de Monceau, opening onto the Parc Monceau in Paris.
    It was on Rue de Monceau, the stronghold of Parisian aesthetes, that Eleanor discovered the perfect home for all her artworks. This charming mansion house from the second half of the 19th century opened up on a little French styled garden which opened directly onto the Parc Monceau. Through the gates of her garden Eleanor could see the adjacent garden of the Menier family; chocolate manufacturers and owners of Chateau de Chenonceau since 1913. Just behind this mansion and between the trees, the view was magical. One could see the rotunda of the hotel owned by the Count Moïse de Camondo, collector and banker who willed his marvellous hotel with all the collections inside to the town of Paris.

  • WestImage - Art Digital Studio
    Pavillon d'Artois, Eleanor's chateau constructed at the end of the 18th century for the Comte d'Artois, Louis XVI's brother.
    As a true French aristocrat, Eleanor owned a chateau in the countryside. She discovered the ideal small heaven when she arrived in France. Situated one hour away from Paris, the Artois Pavillon was built in the 18th century for Louis XVI's brother, the next Charles X. This property was complimented by an English style large park and includes a small farm, a large vegetable garden, avenues shaded by centennial trees and, hidden under some vegetation, an underground grotto equipped with a waterfall by Richard Mique, famous architect who designed the Gardens of The Petit Trianon for Marie Antoinette.



     



    The Seine river ran at the end of the park and in the middle of the river stood a wooden house which evoked American literature and summer nights in Long Island.

  • WestImage - Art Digital Studio
    The main staircase of Pavillon d'Artois, Vaux-sur-Seine..
    The Artois Pavillion was the perfect residence for Eleanor, when she wished to host guests or away from Paris. Several stairs served the four levels of the property. A rotunda hall gave way to a large sitting room and various reception rooms and there was a lounge on the garden level, which was the perfect hideaway for hot summer days. Two floors were designated to family members and friends who could choose to stay in and, thanks to the rooms decor, immerse themselves in Louis XV dynasty or First French Empire.

  • WestImage - Art Digital Studio
    The guestbook in the main hall of the Pavillon d'Artois, on a 19th century French Gueridon.
    In all their properties, Eleanor and her husband, the conductor Léon Barzin, would bring aesthetes and artists together. The guestbook, which welcomed visitors in the Artois Pavillion's large entrance hall, is the last record of these elegant receptions. You could meet the Count and Countess of Beaumont, the Princess of Caraman-Chimay, Madam Léon Blum (wife of former president of the Conseil), the United States Ambassador and Madame Gavin, Baron and Baronness Guy de Rothschild, the Japanese ambassador and Madame Kurukaki, the furnishing specialist Olivier Le Fuel, The Duke and Duchess of Luynes, the renowned soloists Philippe Entremont, Arthur Grumiaux and Maurice Gendron and of course, Marjorie Merriweather Post when she visited her daughter.

  • WestImage - Art Digital Studio
    The library of Pavillon d'Artois showing its 18th century decoration.
    Eleanor Post Close's sitting rooms were furnished with special care. Very knowledgeable about art, she collected French furniture of the 18th Century with a keen eye and an unfailing taste. She was in fact the adviser of her mother Marjorie when the latter put together collections for her various properties in the United States. The greatest pieces of furniture making and French carpentry are displayed in the properties of Eleanor in Paris, in Fribourg and at the Artois Pavillion showing artists as Oeben, Delanois, Leleu, Cresson and Heurtault.

  • Nicolas de Largillierre, Portrait of Monsieur de Puysegur. Estimate: €60,000–80,000.
    Zao Wou-Ki, 06.10.69, 1969. Estimate: €300,000–500,000.
    With this collection Sotheby's offers a journey from Largillière to Zao Wou-Ki. Eleanor loved all that was beautiful; thus the sitting rooms were not only filled with furniture and objects of the 18th Century, but hung on walls or placed in cabinets were impressionist and modern artworks from Odilon Redon, Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard, sculptures from Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, Auguste Rodin and Rembrandt Bugatti, alongside Fabergé vases, and many more wonders. Antal Post de Bekessy, her son, shared her rounded and eclectic taste with her. He also enriched her collection with bronze sculptures from Antoine-Louis Barye and mahogany furniture from Canabas.

  • Frank O. Salisbury (1874-1962), Portrait of Antal Post de Bekessy in sea suit.
    Antal Post de Bekessy remained very attached to the St Paul School of Concord, New Hampshire, and to Princeton University, from which he graduated. Throughout his life, Antal worked with many important artistic and cultural institutions, including not only Hillwood, but the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the Belvedere Museum in Vienna and the Vienna Opera. His efforts in support of the conservation and the appreciation of French art and architecture were recognised by the Minister of French Culture, which raised him to the order of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres.

  • © Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens Archives. Photographed by Maxwell Mackenzie
    Hillwood Mansion, Washington D.C.
    Hillwood Mansion and the collections held inside this property are today open to the public thanks to the generosity of Marjorie Merriweather Post. Following in her footsteps, Eleanor and Antal also supported large artist institutions, museums and operas, in order to share and promote their common passion for art and beauty. The upcoming Sotheby's exhibition in Paris will revive this grand way of life and extraordinary story by selling Eleanor Post Close and Antal Post de Bekessy's collections on 19 and 20th December: an American dynasty in Europe.

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