The Vallayer-Coster acquired by the National Gallery of Art in Washington

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19/6/23 - Acquisition - Washinton, National Gallery of Art - The painting is superb, that’s for sure. It is painted by a woman, no less. This still life by Anne Vallayer-Coster (ill. 1) was therefore the perfect choice for acquisition by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, which now only seems to buy paintings by female artists (or those associated with slavery), sometimes for the worse (see the news item of 2/5/23) and sometimes for the better, as in the case of this canvas, which fetched €2,581,000 (including fees) at Christie’s Paris on 15 June, more than doubling its high estimate.

In the article devoted to this sale (see news item of 14/6/23), in which this painting was praised for its size, quality and excellent state of conservation, we wrote: "There’s no doubt that this painting by a woman artist will attract the attention of museums.". And so it is done. As the Louvre holds several wokes by this artist, including what is undoubtedly her masterpiece and one of the most beautiful still lifes of all time, Sea plumes, lithophytes and shells, there was no reason to hold back this picture, which will represent her art with dignity on the other side of the Atlantic.

1. Anne Vallayer-Coster (1744-1818)
Still-life with alabaster vase filled with flowers and fruit on a table, 1783
Oil on canvas - 108,5 x 89,5 cm
Photo: Christie’s
See the image in its page

We won’t go into the broad outlines of Anne Vallayer-Coster’s career here; we’ll simply refer you to the news items already published on this site, notably on the occasion of the recent acquisition of her paintings by museums. Washington thus joins the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, which in 2019 bought a still life with fish (see the news item of 7/3/19) from Wildenstein, with its cold colours, very different from those of the painting now in the National Gallery, while Stockholm, four years earlier, acquired a very fine portrait (see the news item of 7/4/15), a rarer genre for this painter.

2. Anne Vallayer-Coster (1744-1818)
Madame de Saint-Huberty un thé Role of Dido, 1785
Oil on Canvas - 145,7 x 101,6 cm
Washington, National Museum of Women in thé Arts
Photo: NMWA
See the image in its page

Although the National Gallery of Art has no paintings by Anne Vallayer-Coster to date, one of her works can already be seen in Washington, Portrait of Madame de Saint-Huberty in the Role of Dido (ill. 2). It is a painting kept at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. The federal capital, whose museum seems intent on creating a women’s collection, already has one dedicated to this ’genre’, opened in 1987, long before it became fashionable...

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