Best Of The Best 2006: Unknown Beauty

The paintings in Jack Kilgore & Co.’s Manhattan gallery rarely are by famous artists, but they are nonetheless compelling. One of Kilgore’s star attractions is a large oil portrait of a French aristocrat, Mélanie de Forbin-Gardanne, painted in 1789 in Italy by French artist Jean-Louis le Barbier le Jeune. Though obscure, the artist obviously possessed immense talent. “The mink and ermine trim on the dress is extraordinary,” says Jack Kilgore, president of the gallery. “The artist is clearly showing off.” The sitter, who wears a dreamy expression, is depicted with Louis XVI furnishings that broadcast her status to her peers. “To us, it looks antique, but to her, she was in the fast lane of fashion,” he says. Le Barbier le Jeune completed the portrait just as the French Revolution began, but the artist and sitter both escaped the guillotine; the former died in 1797 and the latter in 1841.

Kilgore excels at selecting captivating old master and 18th-century paintings. “I think the personality of the dealer should come out in the works they deal in,” he says. “The pictures I deal in are the pictures I live with. They’re an extension of me.”

Jack Kilgore & Co.


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