Sunday, September 22, 2019


I have been hearing from more and more readers that they enjoy the old stories so I thought I would write down a few, including names, at the risk of name dropping, so my readers can identify.

Shortly after I was born I became part of the art world.  When my parents arrived in this country in 1939, they were given a limited budget by the family firm and found an apartment at a prestigious address on Central Park South, but it was a one bedroom in the back with a wall for a view.  There was a living room, which served as the office, a kitchen they could eat in, and a bedroom with the bathroom off it. I was put in a crib in the living room at night and in the morning, I was rolled into the bedroom in case a client came in.  One time a member of the Rothschild family came, and he needed to use the loo. Heading, as instructed, through the bedroom he tried to pull open one of the doors. It happened to be the closet which my mother, still not dressed, had jumped into and was pulling on the handle on the other side!  I guess he got the hint … Wrong door.


J. Paul Getty was said to have frequently “gone shopping” with my uncle, Hans Stiebel, for French 18th Century Furniture.  The most famous piece being the double desk that had belonged to the Dukes of Argyle and was acquired from Sir Robert Abdy.  I visited Getty twice at Sutton Place, his manor house near London.  The first time was strictly business, though he was having tea with his current girlfriend and decorator, Penelope Kitson.   I had been rehearsed by his advisor and his curator from his museum in Los Angeles.  The only thing they forgot to remind me of was that Getty always had to bargain. Happily, a 10% reduction satisfied him.  Thank goodness since any more of a reduction and we would have taken a loss.

Regarding the parsimoniousness of J. Paul,  I did not see the  pay phone that was he was supposed to have had installed in his lobby, but when the new Getty expanded from just Greek and Roman art in the villa, his curators had to buy their own office supplies.  When I went back to Sutton Place with my wife some years later I asked if I could show her the model of the new Getty where the curators placed miniatures of the pieces that Getty could buy for the museum to show him how they would look in the rooms.  Getty told us that he only heated half the house in the winter so, not wanting to leave the heated section, he said, “You know the way, show Penelope”.  I had been in the house once before, so we went wondering off until we found the model.  We just followed the breadcrumbs back to the living room!

J. Paul Getty at Sutton Place


This past weekend we saw a snippet of a play where one of the characters was Henry Ford I.  He was portrayed as the anti-Semite that he was.  It  reminded of Henry Ford II, who we knew as a client.  This man was definitely no anti-Semite, --he was just too nice to both my father and me.  I remember one time he came in during the lunch hour. When I opened the door for him, he said, “I bet you were just eating lunch.”  I replied in the affirmative and he laughed patting his tummy and saying, “This is how I diet”.  He proceeded into the gallery and bought several pieces of turquoise Sèvres porcelain and paid the next day.  Later, I approached him when I was raising funds for a dealer exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum, under the auspices of The International Confederation of art Dealers (C.I.N.O.A.). Most people gave a few hundred dollars or a thousand at the most, He contributed $5,000!

Henry Ford I

Anne & Henry Ford II


I had a couple of elderly lady clients that I adored.  One was Miss Frick who I have written about ( and another was Anita Young. 

Mrs. Young was the widow of Robert R. Young, a financier and innovator of the railroad business.  His only failure was the New York Central Railroad which he took over in 1954. He had to suspend dividends the following year, the stock price fell and, scared they were headed towards bankruptcy, he committed suicide in 1958.  His personal finances seemed to be in fine shape, however, and left his widow Anita with homes in New York, Newport and Palm Beach.

Anita & Robert Young

As a client Anita Young knew what she wanted and told her decorator rather than asking their advice, as so many of our clients did.  She only bought French 18th century furniture and furnishings from us.  As the very old and very young get along well, one day I mustered the courage to tell her about our French 18th century paintings which would go so well with her collection.  We would take them out in the paintings viewing room, on request.  Mrs. Young said, “I am quite happy with my sister’s paintings.”  I first thought, oh dear what have I gotten myself into! But then I thought, the lady has too much taste and flair to want a poor artists work on her walls.  So, I took the plunge, “Mrs. Young who is your sister?” “Oh” she responded, Georgia O’Keeffe”.

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