Pavel Tchelitchew (1898-1957)

Portrait of Edulji Dinshaw

Pavel Tchelitchew (1898-1957)
Portrait of Edulji Dinshaw
signed and dated 'P. Tchelitchew 40' (lower right)
gouache on board
28¾ x 50¼ in. (73.02 x 127.63 cm.)

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Lot Essay

Edulji Framroze Dinshaw (1916-70), a Parsi, was born in Mumbai and he died in New York. His father, the brilliant attorney F. E. Dinshaw (d. 1936), is recognized as the founder of ACC Limited, India's foremost manufacturer of cement and ready mix concrete. Before World War II, Edulji Dinshaw and his sister Bachoo (d. 2003) settled in New York, their home for the rest of their lives.

Until well into the 1950's, Edulji Dinshaw and his sister inhabited the 1902 townhouse at 1081 Fifth Avenue, between 89th and 90th Streets. 1080 Fifth Avenue, the apartment building there now, stands where 1081 Fifth Avenue and the houses that adjoined it once stood.

Edulji Dinshaw, personally designed, furnished and appointed his home with examples of 18th-century European decorative arts of museum quality and supreme historical importance, including several of the large, white Meissen porcelain birds and animals that had been made around 1730 for Augustus the Strong's Japanese Palace in Dresden; in particular, the Nanny Goat and Suckling Kid, which today is the centerpiece of the Meissen porcelain display in the renowned Wrightsman Galleries at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In the history of collectors and collecting, Edulji Dinshaw is most well known for having reunited, by 1947, and for the first time in more than 100 years, the breathtakingly beautiful mother-of-pearl, polished steel, gilded bronze and silvered bronze cylinder desk and matching small table, originally (1786) made for, and now back in Marie-Antoinette's boudoir at Fontainebleau.

Edulji Dinshaw's flair for interior design is suggested strongly in the passage in which Pavel Tchelitchew's biographer, Parker Tyler, mentions portraits of the artist's friends such as, 'the young Indian, Edalgey Dinsha, who is pictured as a sumptuously reclining faun with immense liquid eyes while a mountain crouches like a leopard in the background. The portrait has a private vernissage at Dinsha's [home], where it is shown on the mantelpiece, a cynosure of special spotlights, amid an almost religious hush.' (The Divine Comedy of Pavel Tchelitchew, 1967.) In this reference, clearly, to the present portrait, Edulji Dinshaw's own high regard for the portrait and the portraitist is obvious.

Edulji Dinshaw and Pavel Tchelitchew may have known each other in London or Paris before 1934. At that date, Tchelitchew relocated to New York with his partner, the American novelist, poet, photographer and filmmaker, Charles Henri Ford (1913-2002).

Evidence that Tchelitchew and Edulji Dinshaw knew each other well is provided by an anecdote in the memoirs of John Bernard Myers (1922-1989), the art dealer and writer who came to New York from Buffalo in 1944 to fill the position of Managing Editor at Charles Henri Ford's avant-garde quarterly, View. Shortly after arriving in New York, Myers met Tchelitchew for the first time in the artist's studio in the penthouse apartment on East 55th Street that Ford and Tchelitchew shared.

Myers recalls: 'Around the fireplace was an arrangement of driftwood, which I commented upon as beautiful and unusual. 'It is from the beach on Long Island' [Tchelitchew] said (it is difficult to record his Russian accent peppered with French). 'Very simple and lovely, it is true. When I showed my arrangement to Edelgey Dinshaw - you know Edelgey? Of course not. He is son of richest Indian tycoon. Well, when Edelgey Dinshaw saw my arrangement, he make his chauffeur take him to beach. Chauffeur collects driftwood. They bring back driftwood to New York. Then Edelgey Dinshaw telephones me to say 'Pavlik, you must come for tea; I have something to show you.' I go for tea and there is driftwood in front of fireplace. But instead of 'au naturel', it has been gilded and then in different places he has put pearls, some diamonds, some rubies, even emeralds. I said to Edelgey Dinshaw, 'Edelgey, you have ruined the effect of nature.' He looked very hurt. 'Why did you do that?' I asked. 'Because,' he said, 'it looked too plain.' At this Tchelitchew burst into a marvelous laugh and went out of the room to bring back tea.'

At an art gallery opening in 1945 Myers recalls: 'I finally met Tchelitchew's friend, Edelgey Dinshaw. Thin, tall, dark-skinned, he seemed more like a rare species of gazelle than a person. His eyes are abnormally large, deer-like, and his nostrils seemed to tremble. He was perfectly dressed in a black silk suit. [After a short conversation, he] lowered his eyes and gave me a delicate smile as though he were a character in an Indian print.

Finally, John Bernard Myers recalled, in February 1946: 'a concert at Town Hall presented by Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale, the duo pianists. It seemed to me the most unusual recital I had ever attended. The audience did not resemble others I had seen in concert halls, since most of the people were either artists or members of what I suppose must be called international society, including Edelgey Dinshaw and his sister as well as the various princesses and 'marquesas' who surrounded Tchelitchew. Peggy Guggenheim was the patroness of the concert.' (John B. Meyers, Tracking the Marvelous: A Life in the New York Art World, New York, 1984).
That individuals in theater, dance and film attracted Edulji Dinshaw and were attracted to him, is another aspect of the short life of Edulji Dinshaw, which still awaits complete discovery (or rediscovery) and which was, if nothing else, one of extremely interesting, very close degrees of separation at his specific juncture of international society, the visual and the performing arts, interior design and the unique, stellar position he will always occupy in the history of collectors and collecting, because for a short time Marie-Antoinette's mother-of-pearl furniture was his.

We are grateful to Ronald Freyberger, author, lecturer and researcher, who has contributed to Christie's Review of the Season and Christie's International Magazine and has lectured at Christie's New York and Christie's Education on Eighteenth-century French Decorative arts and the History of Collectors and Collecting.

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