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Patronage I: The Western World from Ancient Greece until 1900  
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Beckford also collected over 550 paintings by such earlier artists as Titian, Rembrandt, and Claude Lorraine. He was one of the first British collectors to be interested in the work of the Spanish artist Diego Velázquez (1599-1660). Velázquez's Philip IV in Brown and Silver (1623, now National Gallery, London; purchased by Beckford about 1811) served as model for portraits of dandies in the later part of the nineteenth century.

Dandies as Art Patrons

Philippe Bourbon and Beckford can be regarded as forerunners of the dandies who gained prominence at the end of the nineteenth century. Count Robert Montesquiou (1855-1921) well exemplifies these elegant and stylish men, who cultivated rarefied aesthetic sensibilities and effete, decadent public images.

Descended from a wealthy, aristocratic family, Montesquiou began to devote himself to art collecting in the mid-1870s with extensive purchases of Arabian and Japanese decorative objects, which he used to convert his quarters into what he described as a fairy palace. Because of his distinguished social position and widely recognized sense of style, Montesquiou helped to influence several trends in artistic taste in late nineteenth-century Europe. Arrangement in Black and Gold, Comte Robert de Montesquiou (1892, The Frick Collection, New York), a portrait that he commissioned from James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903), is the quintessential image of the dandy.

Montesquiou was an early patron and supporter of Art Nouveau decorative artists, such as Emil Gallé (1846-1904), and Symbolist painters, such as Gustave Moureau (1826-1898), who became a close personal friend. Among the works that Moreau created for Montesquiou, the Salome Contemplating the Head of the Baptist (undated, now in Musée Gustave Moreau, Paris) well exemplifies the decadent sensuality that also permeates Montesquiou's poetry. As a writer, he was mentored from a young age by Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-98), and he shared many of his goals as a writer.

In 1885, Montesquiou met Gabriel Yturii (1864-1905), a dashing and handsome Argentinean, shortly after he arrived in Paris. The two became lovers and remained attached to one another until Yturri's untimely death from diabetes. In a note to Montesquiou in 1886, Yturri wrote "I am devoted to you, body and soul, for all my life." Montesquiou and Yturri were commonly referred to as spouses in Parisian society.

Montesquiou also served as the model for Baron Charlus in Marcel Proust's great novel, Remembrance of Things Past (1913-27, recently translated as In Search of Lost Time). Because of his example, elegant Art Nouveau decoration and "decadent" Symbolist art and poetry came to be linked to homosexuality.

Although the dandy is usually defined as a male, Isabella Stewart ("Jack") Gardner (1840-1924) deserves to be ranked as one of the leading examples of this phenomenon. Gardner was patron, muse, and romantic advisor to a dynamic group of homosexual men in late nineteenth-century Boston. Included in her circle were such diverse individuals as the writer Henry James, the philosopher George Santayana, and the explorer Arthur Jephson. Her enormous wealth assured Gardner's position in elite society, but her friendships with homosexual men and with African-American women, as well as other manifestations of her bohemian lifestyle, positioned her as an outsider.

She began collecting Old Master paintings avidly in 1888, and she intended Fenway Court (built 1899-1903, with some later additions, now the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston) to serve as both her residence and a museum for her collection. Fenway Court, designed by Willard T. Sears (1837-1920), incorporated antique and Renaissance architectural fragments imported from Italy to create the appearance of a Venetian palazzo. In Boston at the turn of the century, the Venetian Gothic style, favored by Gardner, was considered to be both "exotic" and rarefied, and it thus can be classified as a characteristic example of dandy taste.

Another one of her major public undertakings, the High Altar Reredos at the Church of the Advent, Boston (1896) was designed by gay architect Ralph Henry Cram (1863-1942) in an ornate Flemish Gothic style. As Shand-Tucci has demonstrated, the imagery of this immense altar structure has intense homoerotic connotations--featuring such saints as Sebastian, John the Evangelist, and George.

Among contemporary painters, Gardner strongly favored the work of John Singer Sargent (1838-1917), who was also a close friend and participant in her gay circle. In his stylish portraits of her, including Isabella Stewart Gardner in Black (1888) and Mrs. Gardner in White (1922, both in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum), he captured her forceful personality and distinctive beauty. Gardner also used her influence to secure for Sargent the mural commissions in the Boston Public Library, which occupied him from 1899 until 1925.

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