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What Would Otherwise Not Be Seen

Apr 14, 2020 | JMW News

Unfortunately, you cannot visit our exhibitions at this time, which we all very much regret. Since we love dialog and interaction with our visitors, the idea came about of introducing objects to you, which are not featured in tours, via the museum’s blog. These objects are not part of our tours, because they are either too small or the vitrine does not allow guests to get a closer look. It may also be due to other stories being louder and other objects bigger that the story and the object fade into the background.

Cher Monsieur,
vous avez été trop aimable de m’envoyer
le prix du portrait
de Madame Fould.
Vous savez que j’ai
l’interêt de le recommencer (…)

My dear Sir,
You were far too kind in sending me
the price of the portrait
of Madame Fould.
You know,
I would love to do it over again…

Letter from Pierre-August Renoir to the family Fould. August 4, 1880
© Felipe & Renata Propper de Callejon

As a guide myself, I would like to say a few words, where I react to what is told with my own story. This story comes in the form of a letter.

Dear Mr. Renoir,
It is still a beautiful picture! We just cannot understand, not by any stretch of the imagination, how you can be so displeased with it. In any case, these feelings seem to have gotten the better of you in that one can barely decipher your signature. The man to which you have addressed is Thérèse’s husband, Monsieur Fould. Thérèse is the daughter of Chaim Ephrussi, the patriarch from Odessa, and his second wife, Mrs. Henriette. Thérèse was born in 1851 in Odessa and died in 1911 in Paris. In earnest, she is sitting rather rigidly here, don’t you think? Perhaps she developed backpain from sitting as a model. The piece of jewelry that she is wearing in her décolleté, could that perhaps explain it? Or her diary? She writes at the beginning a kind of forward, where she states that she would begin yet again writing in her “journal” and confide in it things she couldn’t tell her closest friend. Who knows what Madame Fould thought of her work? Might you not also be interested in finding out what was written in this diary?

The portrait, letter and piece of jewelry are items on loan provided by Renata Propper de Callejon, who safely keeps them at her home in New York City. We thank you so much for these loans!

Pierre-August Renoir, Portrait of Thérese Ephrussi – Madame Léon Fould, oil on canvas, 1880
© Felipe & Renata Propper de Callejon

Thérèse Ephrussi´s brooch, to be seen on the portrait of Renoir
Image: Sebastian Gansrigler
© Felipe & Renata Propper de Callejon