Monday, July 28, 2014

Madame D

I realize that I'm probably boring you with my sudden infatuation with all things MerriweatherPostian, but when life is as vexing as is ours at the moment, one does find consolation in the contemplation of beautiful things.

One of which is most definitely Mrs. Post's youngest daughter Nedenia, better known to us as the eternally gracious actress Dina Merrill (still with us as at an I'm sure lissome 90).  She's seen here in an intimate portrait that hangs in her mother's opulent Hillwood dressing room.  It's a startling image; one rarely sees something so directly an hommage that is, on its own modest terms (the piece is quite small, not much larger than an 8x10, and even after a good long examination I couldn't decide if it is a photograph or a drawing) so successful.

One of the points of the inspiration, Sargent's Madame X, is that that however striking the sitter may have been, she was not (with her radically retroussé nose) classically lovely.  That's certainly not the case of the sometime Miss Post.  In addition, someone decided that another feature of the Sargent, the lady's falling strap, was simply not appropriate for for an American heiress-turned-star.

Hanging there at Hillwood, the little portrait is one of the simplest objects to be seen (unless you count such austere little numbers as the vast solitaire emerald ring that once belonged to the Emperor Maximilian or possibly the fixtures in Mrs. Post's cosy Mamie-pink bathroom).  In the context of the mistress of Hillwood's private quarters (a suite of rooms more like the set for a Norma Shearer MGM epic than any place in which I've actually set foot), it's almost surreal.

It's so lovely, in fact, that I'd almost rather have it than the emerald.  Almost.


  1. There is nothing wrong at all in the contemplation of beautiful things... You need to surround yourself with them! Jx

  2. A gentle obsession, to be sure. One which should be cultivated in troublesome times. I love this addition, La Merrill puts me in mind of Jessica Lange.

    1. True, although Merrill lacked the tinge of crazy that always lurked behind Lange's beauty and that she has put to such effective use, starting with Frances and especially in her more recent outings. By contrast, Dina's range was not wide - variations on the beautiful gentlewoman - but within her fach, she was quite, quite marvelous.

  3. Focusing on grace and refinement when things are whirling about can be remarkably calming so I say like your eyes rest where it will be most beneficial.

    Miss Merrill has always been the essence of old money to me: gracious, charming, open and diginified. I saw her from a distance once when she was filming something, who knows what, in Manhattan. Everything and everybody was swirling around her but she remained cooly composed speaking to anyone who approached in a warm, smiling manner. Very classy.

  4. I'll second joel above. I saw Ms. Merrill and her husband in the aisle of a Broadway theatre during intermission some years ago. I stopped her and told her that I had adored her since I was a child and that I had always imagined that my mother during her Manhattan working days was just like Ms. Merrill's movie characters - lovely, classy, well mannered & dressed, refined - and that my Mom was just tickled when I had told her this fact years later. She asked if my mother was still alive. When I said she was, she said to give mom her regards. She then introduced me to her husband Ted. She could not have been more gracious. I almost fainted from delight.

  5. Heiress to the Post fortune and a Batman villain, to boot.