Better known as Ernest Cognacq’s artistic adviser and as the first curator of the Cognacq-Jay Museum in Paris, Édouard Jonas was also a successful art dealer who owned a gallery 3 Place Vendôme In Paris, and one on 8 East 56th Street in New York’s the Upper East Side. He sold in both sites a vast array of eighteenth-century decorative arts, old master paintings and, later, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works. The list of his clients included Ernest Cognacq, Solomon R. Guggenheim, Samuel Kress, Chester Dale, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Fogg Art Museum, the Detroit Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, to name but a few.
Positioned at the nexus of the Franco-American art market, involved with the key private, commercial and institutional figures of the early twentieth-century art world, Édouard Jonas has yet so far remained almost entirely overlooked by scholars. His activities, though evidenced by a rich and complex body of primary sources (which included a recurrent presence in the Duveen archives), have not yet been the subject of rigorous academic scrutiny. Discussed briefly in the publications relating to the creation of the Cognacq-Jay museum, most notably by George Brunel and Benjamin Couilleaux, his curatorial role and commercial career, have never, however, been critically analysed. Although appointed the executor of Ambroise Vollard’s estate, he is only mentioned en passant in the publications relating to the artist, while accounts of the ‘star’ dealers of the first decades of the twentieth century such as Joseph Duveen have generally relegated his name to footnotes.
The current paper is therefore intended as a mise en lumière of Édouard Jonas’ activities in France and America and hopes to expand current scholarship on the networks of exchanges between dealers, private collectors and public institutions in the first decades of the twentieth century. In a first instance, the paper will examine Jonas’ activities as a dealer, the spheres and international networks in which he operated, with a particular focus on his ambiguous and often conflicted relationship with Joseph Duveen.
The second part of this paper will address Jonas’ role as advisor to Ernest Cognacq and his subsequent position as first curator of the Cognacq-Jay museum. More specifically, the paper will interrogate the intersection of Jonas’s commercial and curatorial identities by examining his agency on the development and display of the Cognacq-Jay collection. The paper will consider to what extent Jonas’ transatlantic commercial activities might have collided and conflicted with a project of national cultural repatriation, a project which Jonas openly articulated in his 1930 catalogue of the Cognacq-Jay Collection. Finally, the last part of my paper will examine the loan policies Jonas implemented at the newly founded museum. An analysis of the early museum taxonomies and a mapping of the ephemeral transatlantic trajectories of Ernest Cognacq’s collection will allow us to envisage both the museum and Jonas’ gallery as liminal sites which displays blurred the boundaries between the commercial, the museal and the private.
Barbara Lasic is a Lecturer in History of Art at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London. She is an external examiner for the BA in Art History at the Open University, and a regular Consultant Lecturer at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Prior to her academic career, she worked at the Victoria & Albert Museum as part of the curatorial team involved in the redevelopment of the Europe: 1600-1800 galleries, and she held curatorial positions at the Wellcome Trust and the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.
Barbara Lasic has published on the subject of French decorative arts, the history of taste and the history of collecting, and museum architecture. Her research interests include the production and consumption of French decorative arts, 1650-1900, the formation of museums, the private and institutional collecting and display of French art, and, more broadly, nineteenth and early twentieth-century cultures of collecting.
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