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Emilie Yznaga

Emilie came to England by 1879. She was then 20, and was reportedly a favourite in London society.61 Over the next 35 years Emilie, who never married but who had a reputation for being very good company,62 was to make a number of appearances in the society pages, and was often reported to be in the company of one or other of her sisters. A recognised member of the ‘smart set’,63 she was among the invitees at a ball given at Marlborough House in 1886 by the Prince and Princess of Wales,64 and she too went to the 1897 Devonshire Ball. In 1900 she was in London for the second marriage of Lady Randolph Churchill, whom Consuelo had befriended as ‘Jennie Jerome’ some thirty years earlier.65 In 1903 she was at a dinner at Windsor Castle given by King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra for the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess Vladimir of Russia;66 in 1905 she was a dinner guest of the King and Queen at Buckingham Palace who were entertaining the Prince of Bulgaria.67 Another guest at that dinner was Sir John Murray Scott, Lady Wallace’s residuary legatee. In 1907 she was chatting to the Duchess of Westminster at Cowes,68 and in July 1914 she was among the invitees at a state ball at Buckingham Palace.69 Notwithstanding these fairly frequent trips to England, by the mid-1890s Emilie was living mainly in Paris. Here she was a frequent companion of the immensely wealthy Baroness Clara de Hirsch, who until her death in 1899 had homes in the rue de l’Elysée and at the château de Beauregard near Marly.70 By 1902 Emilie was described as living at 70 avenue Marceau, Paris, although, as is clear, she continued to make intermittent visits abroad.71 After the end of the Great War, Emilie’s social whirl continued. For example, in 1928 she went to a dinner at the Ritz, Paris, hosted by Mortimer Schiff, the maiolica collector. Among the guests was Joseph E. Widener, whose paintings collection later became one of the cornerstones of the National Gallery of Art, Washington.72 Two years later Emilie attended a dinner given by her good friend Anthony J. Drexel at his Paris home. Among the other guests was the duc Hélie de Talleyrand-Périgord, who filled his various houses with seventeenth- and eighteenth-century works of art.73 Mixing in the same circles as noted art collectors, Emilie was herself one of their number, and owned objets d’art as well as paintings.74 In 1932 she lent a monochrome Boucher sketch, which she was to give to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, to the major Exposition François Boucher mounted by the Fondation Foch at the Hôtel de M. Jean Charpentier (Paris, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, inv. 36231), and in 1935 she lent three pictures to an exhibition of French eighteenth-century art at the Charlottenborg Palace, Copenhagen. Among these was one of the Pillements inherited from Consuelo. Another was the portrait by Greuze possibly of Mme de Gléon now in the National Gallery (NG 5584), and the third was a self portrait by Ducreux.75 Although an American citizen, Emilie remained a resident of Paris until she left France for New York sometime after 9 September 1939.76 When she died in 1944 the New York Times referred to her as ‘known as an art connoisseur and a collector of paints [sic]’.77

61 ‘Society Topics of the Week’, New York Times, 2 March 1890; ibid., 7 May 1892, stating that Emilie ‘is very handsome and accomplished, and is a great friend of the Princess of Wales’. Emilie was some 20 years old when she made her first appearance in 1879 on the society pages of The Times. She was then noted in the company of Lord and Lady Mandeville as signing the visitors’ book at the Chislehurst (Kent) home of the Empress Eugénie to offer condolences on the death of her son, Napoléon Eugène, the Prince Imperial: The Times, 28 June 1879.

62 Ponsonby 1951, pp. 205–6.

63 She was included as such in 1891 by the Treasury mandarin, Edward Hamilton: Mordaunt Crook 1999, p. 241.

64The Times, 22 July 1886.

65New York Times, 12 August 1900.

66The Times, 23 November 1903.

67 Ibid., 8 March 1905.

68 ‘Morgan’s Yacht a Cowes Feature’, New York Times, 11 August 1907. The ‘Morgan’ of the article’s title was J. Pierpont Morgan. Consuelo was also in Cowes, ‘as usual installed at Egypt House, a very pretty place about a mile from the Squadron’s castle’. The previous month Consuelo and Emilie had both been guests at the London home of Mrs Harry Higgins, whose daughter was shortly to marry the brother and heir presumptive of the Duke of Roxburghe: ‘An American Week in London Society’, New York Times, 14 July 1907, and ‘Miss Anna Breese weds in London’, ibid., 11 October 1907.

69The Times, 17 July 1914.

70 ‘Society at Home and Abroad’, New York Times, 30 July 1905: ‘[Emilie] was for some years a companion to the Baroness Hirsch, wife of the famous philanthropist, Baron Hirsch.’ The words ‘famous philanthropist’ show that the Baron Hirsch in question was Baron Maurice de Hirsch. And see ibid., 1 September 1907: ‘[Emilie] spent much of her time with the Baroness Hirsch previous to the death of the latter. Miss Yznaga lives in Paris most of the time.’ The baroness died in Paris in April 1899. Conceivably Emilie became the baroness’s companion after the baron died in 1896, although both she and Baron Hirsch (but not the baroness) were among the guests at a dinner at the Savoy Hotel in January 1895: Observer, 6 January 1895, p. 6. Emilie was reported – improbably it must be said – as having opened a bonnet shop in Paris in the spring of 1899: New York Times, 8 May 1899. Whether or not that report is correct, it is unlikely without Emilie having by then becoming known as resident in Paris.

71 ‘Fernando Yznaga estate’, New York Times, 17 December 1902; ‘Coming to Yznaga funeral’, ibid., 27 January 1908 – a reference to the funeral of Mrs Ellen M. Yznaga, the mother of Consuelo, Natica and Emilie. For other visits to London by Emilie before 1914, see Observer, 14 July 1907, p. 8; New York Times, 20 November 1909 and 30 June 1912; and The Times’s ‘Court Circulars’ published on 1 July, 17 and 18 November 1913, as well as Daily Mirror, 12 July 1913, p. 7. For references to Emilie visiting the spa at Marienbad, see Observer, 26 August 1906, p. 6, and 15 August 1909, p. 7. For other pre-1914 references to Emilie living in Paris, see New York Times, 22 April 1909.

72New York Times, 1 July 1928.

73 Ibid., 29 June 1930. In 1932 she attended a reception at the British Embassy in Paris in honour of the President of France. Among the guests were the wives of the art collector Paul Dupuy and the duc de Talleyrand-Périgord: ibid., 17 July 1932. Emilie was also a guest of Mme Paul Dupuy and her son at the Waldorf Astoria, New York, the following year: ibid., 20 January 1933.

74 For an example of Fabergé in her collection, see Christie’s, Park Avenue, New York, 15 April 1997, lot 79.

75Exposition de l’art français au XVIIIe siècle, Charlottenborg Palace, Copenhagen, 25 August – 6 October 1935, nos 60, 88 and 170. The Ducreux was sold at auction in 1989: Libert et Castor, Paris, lot 32.

76 She made a will in France on that date according to clause 7 of her will dated 16 February 1943. This will was made in New York City in accordance with English law. According to Emilie Yznaga’s death certificate, she had been resident there for two years before her death in November 1944.

77New York Times, 2 November 1944.