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Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens announces new acquisition: 18th c. French painting from estate of Eleanor Post Close
Nicolas de Largillierre (Paris, 1656-1746), Portrait of Monsieur de Puysegur, likely Jacques-François de Chastenet, Marquis de Puysegur, 53 ½ x 41 ½ inches, oil on canvas.

WASHINGTON, DC.- Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens announces the acquisition of the painting Portrait of Monsieur de Puysegur, likely Jacques-François de Chastenet, Marquis de Puysegur, by Nicolas de Largillierre (Paris, 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 53 ½ x 41 ½ 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 entree 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.

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