She would have needed an army: the painting depicts
Washington on Christmas night, 1776, on his way to a surprise
attack on the British.
Instead she posed for pictures in front of the painting at
a black-tie party the museum held Thursday night to celebrate
the 26 newly renovated rooms of the American Wing.
“How can anyone walk through these galleries and not see
that America has the talent, ingenuity, grace and grit to come
through icy waters?” Clinton said in a speech at dinner in the
Temple of Dendur.
Clinton then sat down to short ribs, roasted beets and
leek-and-Gruyere bread pudding. At her table: the director of
the museum, Thomas Campbell; the president of the museum, Emily Rafferty; Mercedes Bass; Oscar and Annette de la Renta; and
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg
LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.
“It’s breathtaking,” the industrialist Koch said in front
of a William Merritt Chase. “It makes you appreciate the
quality of American art.”
Effron of Centerview Partners LLP didn’t miss a beat when
asked to name his favorite painting in the wing: “A Gorge in
the Mountains (Kauterskill Clove)” by Sanford Robinson Gifford.
“It has a golden luminescence to it that is otherworldly,” he
“I have a lot of favorite paintings, but if I had to name
one, it would be ‘Madame X,’” said Chilton, of Chilton
Investment Co. Why? “Because Sargent painted at such an
incredible scale and it was naughty.”
Paulson, president and co-fund manager of Paulson & Co.,
had some inside dope about the Leutze painting of Washington.
“It has a new frame,” Paulson said. “It’s a replica of
the original, made in Queens.” (The framer Eli Wilner oversaw
the project, which 15 people worked on for two years.)
The replica was made from an 1864 photograph found at the
New-York Historical Society, according to a just-published essay
on the painting by associate director Carrie Rebora Barratt.
The painting thrilled Americans when it debuted in 1851 in
New York. Many hung engravings or their own embroidered versions
in their homes, prompting Mark Twain to call it a “work of art
which would have made Washington hesitate about crossing, if he
could have foreseen what advantage was going to be taken of
Its first owner was Marshall O. Roberts, who sold boats to
the federal government during the Civil War. He paid $10,000 for
it in 1851. Scottish-born financier John Stewart Kennedy bought
the painting for the Met at auction, for $16,100, in 1897.
Loaned for long periods of time in the last century, its place
at the Met seems assured. It is an obvious focal point of the
new installation, which opens to the public Jan 16.
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the
arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions
expressed are her own.)