Treasure trove in my own backyard

I have been meaning to pay a visit to Marjorie Merriweather Post’s Washington DC Hillwood Estate for at least five years. It is a shame I waited so long, because Hillwood is an oasis of beauty as well as a reminder of America’s heydays.

For those not familiar with Ms. Post’s history, here is her very, very abbreviated story: Born in Illinois 1887 into the hugely wealthy Post family (of Post cereal fame). Parents die and at age 27 she inherits the $20 million business. Blessed with beauty and brains she turns the business into an even more successful behemoth. Starts collecting art and never stops. Marries four times. In 1955 buys Hillwood (only one of several estates) and fills it with prized pieces from her extensive collection. In short, a formidable woman.

In my last few blogs I have mentioned the prevalence of huge, mega-sized contemporary art taking up residence in art fairs, museums, galleries and cavernous homes of the 1%. What is remarkable about Marjorie Merriweather Post’s unique collection is the predominance of diminutive objets d’art. Ms. Post was partial to the super-refined, labor-intensive, highly detailed French and Russian decorative arts, preferably with royal provenance.

Marie Antoinette's swivel chair
Tsar’s coronation crown
Marie Antoinette's swivel chair
Marie Antoinette’s swivel chair

To be honest, I would have a hard time living with such an extraordinarily large amount of priceless knickknacks and tchachkes. Every surface, cabinet, shelf and table top are crowded with competing Faberge eggs, diamond coronation crosses, tiny enamel inlaid boxes, porcelain dishes to die for and delicate glass ornaments, to name but a few. I won’t even start on the tapestries, furniture and paintings. But there is no question that Ms. Post had exquisite taste. I thank her posthumously for her generosity toward the other 99% in bequeathing her estate to the public as a museum.

Japanese garden on the estate
Japanese garden on the estate

Marjorie and I do however have one thing in common besides art: Shoes. While nosing around her private quarters, I made a wonderful discovery when I peeked into her shoe closet – dozens of pairs of the same shoe in a rainbow of colors. Apparently Ms. Post found this particular style to her liking and had them made in all colors to match her outfits. A woman after my own heart.

Hillwood (12)

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