James Grafstein, New York Antiquaire
James Grafstein, l'ami du Louvre
What a pleasure to pay homage to a great and loyal friend. Loyalty is indeed one of his strongest qualities and is reflected in the strength of his friendships and his great loyalty to the Louvre. And it is his special loyalty to the Louvre which I would like to focus on.
He studied in Paris at the Ecole du Louvre under Pierre Verlet, thanks to whom the knowledge of 18th century French decorative arts has made such great progress. Trained by his master, Jim never forgot what he learnt at the Louvre. That's precisely why he returned there later, thanks to his friendship with my colleague Pierre Ennès, conservator in the works of art department at the Louvre, and a famous expert on ceramics, who sadly left us recently. It was through Pierre Ennès that Jim and I got to know each other.
Several times Jim has wanted to put into tangible form his links to the Louvre and his friendship with us by becoming a donor to the Louvre and thus sharing with us his discoveries, pieces for which we often did not have an equivalent in the collection.
I am delighted to have this opportunity to look back on all that we owe him for his great generosity, which was rightfully recognized by the Ministry of the Culture when Jim was made a 'Chevalier des arts et des lettres'.
Always enamored of porcelain, Jim's first gift to the Louvre was in 1984, a garniture of three Empire vases with a distinctive red ground. These were by the Parisian factory of Pierre-Louis Dagoty, which was protected by the Empress Josephine. The vases were recently included in an exhibition at the château de Malmaison focusing on the Dagoty factory. In 1988, Jim gave us another group of porcelain from Paris: a cabaret of thirteen pieces decorated with an amusing rebus design, probably produced around 1785, in the factory on the rue des Boulets, which was later to become the duc d'Orléans factory. In 1989, thanks to Jim, many works of art related to Parisian porcelain joined the Louvre: a pair of bronzes representing L'Enfant lisant and L'Enfant dessinant which was previously only known in the form of biscuit figures produced by the Parisian manufacture of Dihl and Guerhard.
His most prestigious gift was in 1990: a white and gold pitcher by Sèvres purchased by Louis XV in 1773 for the château de Bellevue that Jim had spotted in an auction in New York some years before. In 1994, he further enriched our French porcelain collection with a pair of two-handled white cups decorated with a delicious décor of berries in relief and with the remarkable feature of silver mounts dated from 1750-1756.
These wonderful works of art, discovered by Jim and then donated to the Louvre, demonstrate the discerning eye and talent of this grand antiquaire. They also reflect his great love of French art, which for many years he was able to share with others through his gallery in New York.
Daniel Alcouffe, Conservateur Général Honoraire at the Musée du Louvre, Paris.