The Francophile Connoisseur Elizabeth ‘Mimi’ Stafford’s Art Collection Will Go on Sale at Christie’s This Fall

Monet, Pissarro, and Lorrain paintings are among the highlights.

Camille Pissarro, Neige, soleil couchant, Eragny (1894). Courtesy Christie's Images Ltd.
Camille Pissarro, Neige, soleil couchant, Eragny (1894). Courtesy of Christie's Images Ltd.

The American collectors Fred and Elizabeth “Mimi” Stafford saw a nice return on a bronze Constantin Brancusi sculpture, La jeune fille sophistiquée (Portrait de Nancy Cunard), which they bought from the artist on a 1950s visit to Paris for $5,000. This past May, it sold at Christie’s for a record $71 million, far surpassing Brancusi’s previous auction record of $57 million.

Now, Christie’s has organized a single-owner sale from the same blue-chip collection, titled “A Love Affair With France: The Elizabeth Stafford Collection.” The event on November 1 will feature nearly 300 lots, ranging from Old Masters, furniture, porcelain, to European art. Still more works will be offered at the auction house’s Impressionist and modern art sales, including at the evening sale as well as the ensuing day and works-on-paper sales. The overall total for the Stafford collection is expected to exceed $14 million.

Claude Monet, <i>Effet de neige à Giverny</i> (1893). Courtesy of Christie's Images Ltd.

Claude Monet, Effet de neige à Giverny (1893). Courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd.

Given the breadth of the property, highlights will be shown in Paris, Hong Kong, and New York to coincide with other major art events, including the Paris Biennale and New York’s Asia Week.

Among the key works from the collection are Claude Monet‘s Effet de neige à Giverny, estimated at $6 million to $8 million, and a landscape by Camille Pissarro, Neige, soleil couchant, Eragny, estimated at $2 million to $3 million. The Staffords acquired the former painting in 1949 and it has been widely exhibited, recently as the centerpiece of the Monet exhibition at the National Gallery in London.

Claude Lorrain, <i>landscape with Apollo guarding the herds of Admetus and Mercury stealing them</i> Image courtesy Christie's Images Ltd.

Claude Lorrain, Landscape with Apollo guarding the herds of Admetus and Mercury stealing them. Image courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd.

The Old Masters sale on October 30 will include Claude Lorrain’s Landscape with Apollo guarding the herds of Admetus and Mercury stealing them, for $600,000 to $800,000, as well as a floral still life by Pierre-Joseph Redouté, estimated at $400,000 to $600,000.

Other objects in the sale reflect Stafford’s love of French porcelain and furniture, including a pair of Louis XV giltwood chairs by Jean Baptiste Tilliard (circa 1750-55), estimated at $120,000 to $180,000, and a pair of Sevres porcelain blue flower vases (circa 1761), for $70,000 to $100,000.

A pair of Louis XV giltwood chairs by Jean Baptiste Tilliard (circa 1750-55). Image courtesy Christie's Images Ltd.

A pair of Louis XV giltwood chairs by Jean Baptiste Tilliard (circa 1750-55). Image courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd.

Stafford grew up in New Orleans and met her husband Fred while working for the State Department in Germany. While living in Paris in the early 1970s, Stafford transformed the couple’s apartment into an 18th-century-style French home and frequently opened it to museum and tour groups.

Stafford’s Paris apartment “reflected her deep connoisseurship and sophistication,” said Will Strafford, a European furniture and decorative arts specialist at Christie’s, in a statement. The collection comprises “a virtual roll call of the greatest French furniture makers of the day.”

Jessica Fertig, head of the Impressionist and modern art evening sale, said in a statement that the works in the collection “maintain the same hallmark traits of excellent provenance, quality, and freshness to the market” as the Brancusi bronze did.


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