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In the spring of 2019 Jayne Wrightsman bequeathed to the Morgan an exceptional collection of books bound for the highest echelons of 18th-century French society. Owned by kings, queens, dukes, and duchesses, the books are monuments of fine printing, elegant engraved illustration, and artistic binding by the most renowned craftspeople. Elaborately decorated bookbindings provided a canvas for an individual to signal their wealth and taste through bookbinders who reflected the trends and developments in contemporary artistic styles.
The books on display showcase the important role women, such as Madame Adélaïde, (daughter of King Louis XV) and Queen Marie-Antoinette, had as book owners and collectors. Book illustrations by François Boucher, Jean-Baptiste Oudry, and Charles-Nicolas Cochin capture the visual ethos of the 18th century, while the artisan binders (male and female) at the workshops of Luc-Antoine Boyet, Antoine-Michel Padeloup, Nicolas-Denis Derome, and others produced bindings worthy of the shelves at Versailles. This exhibition celebrates Mrs. Wrightsman’s gift, made in honor of Morgan Trustee Annette de la Renta, and her collecting acumen in recognizing the important role bookbinding played in the decorative arts and the cultural life of the Ancien Régime.
Bound for Versailles: The Jayne Wrightsman Bookbindings Collection is made possible with support from the Jamie and Maisie Houghton Fund and the Parker Gilbert Fund, and with assistance from Barbara G. Fleischman and the Malcolm Hewitt Wiener Foundation.
Conservators from the Thaw Conservation Center take a close look at techniques used in creating these elaborate works of art.