It was just about a year ago when I won a gorgeous piece of history and started researching it. I learned a lot about wool, moths and fine rugs. The piece was multifaceted with history and part of a very limited edition of hand knotted rugs. The artist whose work was featured, Fernand Leger, was commissioned to create the maquette or cartoon used in the design. The woman who orchestrated this project has just as fascinating history. Marie Cuttoli, originally the wife of a French Senator, had a vision of reviving the tapestry arts in the 1920’s. She spent time in her Algerian mansion and appreciated the artisans there. She worked with a group of women who learned to weave and create works of art from the cartoons.
These pieces generally took 8 months to weave and thus most seem to have been ordered and shipped from Paris. I was able to find our a little about a few of the owners of these pieces scouring auction comps from Christie’s, Sotheby’s and other high end auction houses. Some notable former owners include Vera G List, socialite, philanthropist and notable art collector. I read a transcript from an interview with her in 1973 available from the Archives of American Art which explored her thoughts on collecting and her involvement in the organizations she supported. Another collector/owner was Robert and Andriene (Andrea) Bollt. Andrea was also known as an avid modern art collector and philanthropist.
It was at some point after I listed my piece in my online markets that I was contacted by a curatorial assistant with Kykuit, the Rockefeller family estate. They held a few pieces from the Cuttoli series in their collection and wanted to find out more about them. I agreed to share my research, sources and comps with them and planned on making the drive to Tarrytown, NY to tour the estate.
I grabbed a friend and scheduled my appointment and Grand tour, as advised by the Curator. She mentioned that only the 2 longer tours take you into the basement art galleries where the rugs are on display. Also note that there are many beautiful Calder tapestries on display and any modern art fan would not want to miss this!
The estate was absolutely amazing! From the gorgeous gardens to the amazing home and antiques, the tour guide was great and really gave us a lot of history on the family and how life was in that compound. Heavily Asian influenced, the decor was elegant and scattered with Nelson’s modern tastes. It all worked well together.
After the final stop on the tour at the coach house (filled with buggies that would make my Mennonite friends jealous!), I sat and chatted with the curator and showed her my catalogs and references, presented her with a written summary of comps and info and discussed theories on the origins of the pieces held in our collections. She was lovely and it was so refreshing to discuss this with a like minded individual. Having to piece together the series of circumstances with these items really makes me appreciate the organizations that preserve this history. I have used many of them and give back to support them when I can.
Today I am traveling to Philadelphia to visit the Athenaeum to peruse a Harvey Probber catalog to see if I can authenticate a table I have that is attributed to him. Another day, another fun expedition. I will report on that next week. In the mean time, I will leave you with a few of my shots in the gardens at Kykuit. Have a great week!