Dec 5, 2018

Provenance dataset: Molyneux in NGA NEPIP

In this post we gather together a small subset of artworks that mention Molyneux in the provenance. 

The artworks selected are those that the National Gallery of Art listed on the Nazi Era Provenance Internet Portal and which also contain Molyneux in the provenance
Why is the mention of Molyneux in the provenance of an artwork noteworthy?
A Washington Post article published twenty years ago in 2000 explains the role of Molyneux in supplying one of the NGA's most important art collectors and benefactors, Ailsa Mellon Bruce, with French paintings immediately after WWII, and Molyneux's connection to a Nazi art looting Red Flag Name, Paul Petrides. 

The Bruce collection of small French impressionists provides a good example of less than rigorous screening policies. She bought the paintings in 1955 from a dashing Anglo-French fashion designer named Edward Molyneux. Molyneux, who built up his collection in the immediate postwar period, provided little information about how he had come into possession of the paintings.

In purchasing the paintings, Bruce acted on the advice of the then-curator of the National Gallery, John Walker, and it was clearly understood that the collection would end up in the gallery after her death. Since Molyneux did not die until 1965, it would have been a relatively simple matter to have asked him about the provenance. But gallery officials did not get around to making inquiries until the early '70s.

While there is no reason to suspect Molyneux of knowingly buying looted art, at least some of the paintings came from a Paris dealer named Paul Petrides, who actively collaborated with Nazi art looters, according to U.S. Army files. In a letter dated December 1977, Petrides described Molyneux as "a faithful client who bought a lot of paintings from me."

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