The Duc d'Orléans' Document Box
Coming to auction next month is a perfect time capsule of a collection -- that of Ambassador Alexander Weddell and his wife, Virginia Chase Steedman Weddell. Avid collectors, the Weddells filled their Richmond, Virginia, home with fine art, furniture, antiquities, and rare books. The couple died in a train wreck in 1948, and their grand residence, known as Virginia House, became a museum, where their things were preserved and largely untouched. Now, the collection is being deaccessioned by the Virginia House Museum.
While there is much to please the eye in this collection, I was drawn to lot 100: a Louis XIV French gilt-tooled letter document box. Why? Because it is reputed to have been owned by Philippe, Duc d'Orléans (1674-1723), a passionate artist and art collector. He amassed more than five hundred paintings in his life, including that of Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian, Veronese, Rembrandt, and Rubens; some have called it the greatest private collection of Western art ever assembled. The collection stayed in the family until his great-grandson needed to raise funds during the French Revolution. For art lovers like the Weddells, it must have had potent association value. At auction on April 10, it is estimated to bring $1,000-1,500.
For more particulars about the rare books on offer -- tending toward French literature, e.g., a first edition of Gustav Flaubert's Madame Bovary in a beautiful morocco binding and an inscribed presentation copy of ?mile Zola's Mes Haines -- read this piece in our spring auction guide.
For more information about the Weddells and their home, here's the press release from Freeman's.