Anderson Cooper Buys Unfinished Painting From Met Breuer Show at TEFAF New York

The dealer was asking $275,000 for it.

Anderson Cooper. Courtesy of Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Turner.
Anderson Cooper. Courtesy of Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images for Turner.

Within the first few hours of the inaugural edition of TEFAF New York, which opened at the Park Avenue Armory on October 21, CNN’s Anderson Cooper had already purchased a big ticket item.

The 1775 canvas, Portrait of Mariana de Silva y Sarmiento, Duquesa de Huescar, has an interesting back story. It is a fairly unique piece in that the artist, Anton Raphael Mengs, left it unfinished, the sitter’s face an eerie flesh-toned void. Mengs also neglected to paint in the little dog sitting in her lap, so it remains an outline. A finished version of the painting exists, leading experts to believe the unfinished work, which has a crack in the panel, was returned to the artist’s studio, possibly by its owner.

A sales associate at the gallery, New York’s Otto Naumann Ltd, told us the gallery was asking $275,000 for it, but the price that Cooper paid has not been divulged. Works in the booth ranged from $45,000 to $1.475 million.

If the artwork looks familiar, that’s because it featured prominently in the Metropolitan Museum of Art‘s first show at the old Whitney Museum of American Art space, now rechristened the Met Breuer. Simply titled “Unfinished,” the show contain 197 works from the Renaissance to the present, each left incomplete by their maker, either by choice or by circumstance.

Anton Raphael Mengs, <em>Portrait of Mariana de Silva y Sarmiento, duquesa de Huescar,</em> (1775) was purchased at TEFAF New York by Anderson Cooper despite its unfinished state. Courtesy of the Met Breuer Museum.

Anton Raphael Mengs, Portrait of Mariana de Silva y Sarmiento, Duquesa de Huescar (1775). Courtesy of the Met Breuer Museum.

The Met website notes the sitter was a Spanish noblewoman and artist who was a member of the Academia de San Fernando. The dog and the ring in her hands suggest that she posed for the portrait at the time of her second marriage in 1775.

“We cannot say with any certainty why the portrait was left unfinished and then altered, with her facial features covered as if by a veil,” wrote the Met. “The final result…is almost surrealist in its obliteration of identity.”

The eagerly awaited fair also saw former mayor Michael Bloomberg, a known art collector, in attendance during the VIP preview.

Earlier this year, Cooper was also spotted at the Armory Show in New York, and reportedly purchased a $1.4 million Jeff Koons work made from Sean Penn’s vintage firearm collection at a charity auction run by the actor.


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