This Elsie de Wolfe Portrait’s Story Is As Intriguing As the Subject’s Own

When is a reportedly mutilated portrait by among the best society artists of perpetuity worth near to $100,000? When its Giovanni Boldinis 1890s oil-on-canvas of the Broadway actress and future interior designer Elsie de Wolfe (1859– 1950). Later on in life, she declared that she had hacked off 3 quarters of the work, reducing it to a smiling face, lightly veiled shoulders, and the recommendation of a white gown, in addition to Boldinis signature in the upper right corner. Was it actually cut down, as de Wolfe claimed?”The reducing certainly fits with the lady we envision her to be, colorful however not eccentric, a female to make an unexpected decision,” Bérénice Verdier, a junior expert in Old Masters and 19th Century Paintings at Christies in Paris, said in a telephone interview. Estimated to bring in between $70,972 and $94,630, the picture is Lot 229 in the September 15– 16 sale of more than 150 examples of art, items, and furniture from Le Noviciat, the classy Versailles estate of aeronautics industrialist Paul-Louis Weiller, who died in 1993 at the age of 100. De Wolfe in the late 19th-century, when she was a popular (and best-dressed) Broadway starlet.
“Another De Wolfe portrait, a 1930s study by Bernard Boutet de Monvel, is also in the Christies sale. It is the Boldini De Wolfe that has amazed the auctions professionals.”De Wolfe (left) in a 1897 Broadway production of A Marriage of Convenience.
Photo: My Years on the Stage by John Drew (E. P. Dutton & & Company, 1922)A December 11, 1897, New York Times short article reports that Boldini was “finishing a big picture of Miss Elsie de Wolfe, the starlet …” At the time, De Wolfe (declaring to be 31 but really pushing 40) was starring as a pert maid in John Drews Empire Theatre production of A Marriage of Convenience, a funny of errors that was playwright Sydney Grundys adjustment of the Alexandre Dumas original. Set in 18th-century France, its outfits and sets were dealt with by De Wolfe, too. On the domestic front, the starlet and Elisabeth “Bessy” Marbury, her supervisor and lover, were busily gallicizing their Victorian home on Irving Place and East 17th Street with designer Ogden Codman, a job that would ultimately introduce De Wolfes prominent embellishing profession.

When its Giovanni Boldinis 1890s oil-on-canvas of the Broadway starlet and future interior designer Elsie de Wolfe (1859– 1950). De Wolfe in the late 19th-century, when she was a popular (and best-dressed) Broadway actress.
“Another De Wolfe picture, a 1930s study by Bernard Boutet de Monvel, is likewise in the Christies sale. It is the Boldini De Wolfe that has interested the auctions experts. Picture: My Years on the Stage by John Drew (E. P. Dutton & & Company, 1922)A December 11, 1897, New York Times article reports that Boldini was “finishing a large picture of Miss Elsie de Wolfe, the starlet …” At the time, De Wolfe (claiming to be 31 however really pushing 40) was starring as a pert housemaid in John Drews Empire Theatre production of A Marriage of Convenience, a funny of mistakes that was playwright Sydney Grundys adjustment of the Alexandre Dumas original.