Freeman's
Collection of Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo handbills ca. 1936-1945, The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Clifford

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Benjamin Truesdale
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Published: 28 February 2015

A Collection of Cultural Interest

Freeman’s Books, Maps & Manuscripts department is pleased to offer an assortment of rarities from the personal effects from the private collection of the late Mr. and Mrs. Henry Clifford in our April 23 auction. The Cliffords were great patrons of art, music, and literature, and this collection reflects their keen and highly expansive cultural interests. It consists in important works of early travel literature; early color plate books; ballet handbills; prints; photographs; autographs; and other ephemera.l'Ouvre de Leon Bakst pour la Belle au Bois Dormant. Paris, 1922, Plate XVIII, entitled La Fée Sorbier, The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Clifford

Henry Clifford is perhaps best known today for his prolific tenure as curator of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, a position he held for twenty-two years until his retirement in 1965. Mr. Clifford was instrumental in the Museum’s 1950 acquisition of the Arensberg Collection of modern, pre-Columbian, and North American Indian art.  He coordinated many important exhibitions: in one of the best remembered, he collaborated with Ines Amor, then director of the Galeria de Arte Mexico, and introduced a new generation of Mexican artists to the American public in the 1943 exhibition “Mexican Art Today.”

Esther (née Rowland) Clifford was a medievalist by training.  In 1961, she wrote the monograph A Knight of Great Renown: the Careers of Othon de Grandson in a Setting of Medie.  A highly competent linguist, too, Mrs. Clifford translated Jeanne Modigliani’s biography of her late father, Amedeo Modigliani, as well as important correspondence exchanged between Henri Matisse and Henry Clifford.

Mr. and Mrs. Clifford shared a passion for ballet, often opening their home in Radnor and their villa in Florence, Italy, to travelling dancers.  In the 1930s, Mr. Clifford served as an artistic advisor to Ballets Russes de Colonel W. de Basil.  He also wrote librettos with the Ballets Russes dancer and choreographer David Lichine, including Francesca da Rimini in 1937.

The Clifford materials for sale in April constitute a veritable archive, illustrating the cultural vibrancy and dynamism of the life which this family led together.  There are several important travel books on Switzerland and Italy, the Cliffords’ favorite foreign residences, including an exceedingly rare 1826 German-language edition of Ebel’s Die Bergstrassen; Simplon’s Voyage Pittoresque de Genève à Milan; and Tomas’ Un An à Rome. A hand colored map of Switzerland will also be offered in the sale.

l'Ouvre de Leon Bakst pour la Belle au Bois Dormant. Paris, 1922, Plate IV, entitled Ministre, The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Henry CliffordFor the ballet enthusiast, there are important works treating the set designs of Leon Bakst and other 20th century modern artists; Gordon Anthony’s Ballet: Camera Studies; a watercolor by seminal ballet stage designer Alexandre Benois; and an assortment of original handbills and programs from nearly two decades of Ballet Russes performances.

One particularly endearing lot for sale contains a variety of handmade Christmas cards, ranging in date from 1939 to 1957. These are signed, and with original artwork, by notable friends such as set designer Eugene Berman; dancer Tamara Toumanova; verse novelist Christopher La Farge; and painters Georgia O’Keefe, Marc Chagall, Juan Soriano, and Rufino Tamayo, among many others.

A final highlight of the sale, underscoring the Cliffords’ wide-ranging dedication to book-collecting, is a sixty-two volume collection of the works of the international writer and literary critic Lafcadio Hearn. This lot contains forty-seven first editions, several of them presentation copies, as well as secondary literature.    

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