HBiography: Blunt, Anthony F. "Antoine Seilern: Connoisseur in the Grand Tradition." Apollo 109 (January 1979): 10-23; Farr, Dennis "Seilern und Aspang, Count Antoine Edward (1901-1978)." Oxford Dictionary of American Biography; Shaw, James Byam. "Count Antoine Seilern (1901-78)." The Burlington Magazine 120 (November 1978): 760-2; "Count Seilern's Flemish Paintings and Drawings." Burlington Magazine 97 (December 1955): 396-8; Levey, Michael. "Count Seilern's Italian Pictures and Drawings." Burlington Magazine102 (March 1960): 122-3; Braham, Helen. "Introduction." in, The Princes Gate Collection. London: Courtauld Institute Galleries, 1981, pp. viiâ€“xv.
HBibliography: Paintings and Drawings of Continental Schools Other than Flemish and Italian at 56 Princes Gate London, SW7. London: Shenval Press, 1961; Flemish Paintings & Drawings at 56 Princes Gate, London SW 7. London: Shenval Press, 1955; Italian Paintings and Drawings at 56 Princes Gate, London SW 7. London: Shenval Press, 1959; Recent Acquisitions at 56 Princes Gate, London SW7. London: Shenval Press, 1971.
estate: Early Chinese Ceramics, Archaic Bronzes, Paintings and Works of Art: the Property of the Estate of the Late Count Antoine Seilern, sold by Order of Beneficiaries. London: Christie's, 1982.
GALLERY VIEW; AN ESTIMABLE COLLECTION SEES THE LIGHT OF DAY By JOHN RUSSELL
The New York Times December 13, 1981
It was thanks to a New York fortune that got away that Count Antoine Seilern was able in 1978 to bequeath to the Courtauld Institute in London what is universally regarded as one of the most distinguished private collections to have been formed in this century. In the case of Rubens, for instance, the Seilern collection, with close on 40 items by the master, was stronger than many a famous museum. It ranged backward in time to a triptych by the Master of Flemalle (c. 1375-1444) and forward to a little drawing of pigs that Picasso had made for Gertrude Stein in the summer of 1906. Sometimes quirky, always illuminating, and catalogued by himself and others on a magisterial scale, the Seilern collection had long enjoyed an almost clandestine celebrity in London.
Though easy to hear about, it was not easy to see. Antoine Seilern treasured his privacy, and he was never less than strict in scrutinizing the credentials of anyone who asked to see the collection. He lived in a great gloomy house in Prince's Gate, London, like a well-heeled hermit in a particularly comfortable cell, and he didn't like to have people come to the house and set up vibrations that he might not at all care for.
Even if they got to cross the threshold, their problems were not over. Count Seilern thought that paintings were travestied by artificial light. His house was dark, in the London style, and for much of the year and in many of its rooms the visibility was very poor. Not even the Metropolitan Police could have persuaded him to turn on the electric light at such times, or indeed at any time. A certain frustration was built into the visit, therefore.
For there really was a great deal to see at 56 Prince's Gate. (Antoine Seilern insisted that the collection be known only as ''The Prince's Gate Collection,'' not wishing to parade his own name in that context.) There were works on paper by Leonardo, Michelangelo, Durer, Rembrandt, Watteau and Cezanne. There were major paintings by Bernardo Daddi, Quentin Massys, van Dyck, Brueghel and Parmigianino. There was a concentration on G.B. Tiepolo's last major commission, the seven altarpieces for the monastery church at Aranjuez, near Madrid. (The collection includes all the working sketches for this commission that are known to survive.) Add to these things the very large Rubens group, and the reputation of the collection needs no further support.
So it was an important day in the history of the London art world when a large part of the collection was put on view not long ago at the Courtauld Galleries in Woburn Place, London. The light there is very good, even if the rooms themselves are not always ideal. (The show can be seen there at least until next summer, after which a more permanent home - possibly in the great rooms at Somerset House near Waterloo Bridge - will be found for it.)
Count Seilern's fortune was derived in the 19th century from a German-language newspaper called the ''New Yorker Staats-Zeitung.'' On his father's side he was descended from an Austrian family whose tradition of public service dated back to the second half of the 17th century. His mother was born Antoinette Woerishoffer in New York in 1875, and it was from her family that Antoine Seilern had a very large inheritance.
Nothing predestined him to become a collector. His grandmother had some good minor French 19th-century paintings - two of which, a Diaz and a Daubigny, form part of the bequest - but the family money was used primarily for discreet but never paltry benefactions. There is no sign that in his youth Antoine Seilern ever looked at an Old Master painting, let alone thought hard about one. He traveled in Mongolia, Indo-China and the Yukon in search of big game. He flew his own plane, bred and raced his own horses, and tried his hand at engineering, forestry and banking. ''A born maker and shaker,'' people thought, as they cheered him at the racecourse and heard tell of the exotic animals that he had shot.
Not until 1933, when he enrolled in the University of Vienna at the advanced age of 32, did the reader in him come to the fore. Even when on the track of big game, he had always had at his side a pack mule laden with books. And now, from 1933 until 1937, he studied philosophy, Freudian psychology, archeology and the history of art in Vienna. These were the last years of freedom for a great Central European tradition of disinterested learning, and he made the most of them.
Thanks to Johannes Wilde, then deputy director of the Kunsthistorisches Museum, he learned - something that is less common than might be supposed - to integrate the study of art history with the study of great works of art. Already in 1933 he bought his first Rubens (in 1939 he was awarded a doctorate on the strength of his dissertation on Rubens's Venetian sources) and by 1937 his collection was large enough to justify the publication of a scholarly catalogue.
As he had been born in England, it was a relatively easy matter for him to get out of Vienna in 1939 and transfer his collection to London. Given his age, he could have led a life of study and contemplation throughout World War II, but in point of fact he volunteered at the first possible moment, hurried to Finland to serve in the war against the Russians, returned through occupied Norway and later saw much active service in the Royal Artillery.
None of this stopped him buying pictures. In particular the Rubens collection grew substantially during World War II, and it came in the end to constitute an ensemble as remarkable for range of interest as for high quality. Rubens in the Prince's Gate Collection excels as portraitist, as landscapist, as a decorator on the heroic scale, as a designer of tapestries, as a contributor to book design, and as a devoted student of his precursors.
In this last context Count Seilern owned two paintings that rank among the most affecting things of their kind -the portrait of Baldassare Castiglione after Raphael and the head of the Emperor Charles V after Titian. To see one great painter illuminated by another is one of the keenest pleasures that connoisseurship has to offer. These are collectors' paintings of a very high order, and it is our good fortune that they should have ended up in such firm and loving hands.
But then the Prince's Gate Collection is on every count a major addition to the amenities of London. It would be nice if someone, from time to time, thought back in gratitude to the original source of the collection - the integrity and the professional skills, that is to say, of the editor and staff of the ''New Yorker Staats-Zeitung.''
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