From Versailles to Fifth Avenue: Collecting French Period Furniture and Objets d’Art


Spring 2014


2nd Floor Classroom


Ulrich Leben

From the moment of their manufacture and original installation, French eighteenth century furniture and objets d’art often have lived adventurous histories, which were influenced by political events as well as different owners. After presenting the canvas from where the objects came and for whom they were originally destined in eighteenth-century Paris, the course presents the history of a selection of important objects that today are found in relevant collections or museums and the histories of how they got there. Concentrating on objects such as furniture, gilt bronze and porcelain with dominantly Parisian provenance, we will investigate the main routes of circulation and collecting. Relevant collections during the nineteenth century dominated by collectors such as Prince Anatole Demidoff, Sir Richard Wallace or the Rothschild family will be encountered. Landmark art sales will be looked at and the later trend will be investigated, which in a constant but steady move brought many art objects to museum collections in the U.S. from Fifth Avenue to Santa Monica. This course will familiarize students with a great variety of objects as well as their histories and the formation of collections. The study and analysis of auction catalogs, and the presentation of the objects within, will be part of allocated subjects for papers. Questions of possible differences between choices for private and public collections will be addressed. We shall also address questions of different ethics of conservation, enhancement or embellishment of objects in due course of their transits. The course should enable the participating student to assess a collection, its content and its place in comparison and in time. 3 credits.