Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Mrs. Gilbert Miller and ...

... the little boy in red, according to Mark Hampton in Legendary Decorators of the 20th Century.

"... for Mrs. Gilbert Miller, the famous Kitty Miller, who was eternally best dressed, very rich, a great, great hostess, and who conducted all of this busy, stylish life in rooms created for her by Billy Baldwin. Her apartment at 550 Park Avenue was enormous and pale and immaculate, exuding that instant sense of fantastic housekeeping which could be perceived the minute you stepped through the door. The big drawing room, which was really two rooms that had been thrown together by Billy, was renowned for the Goya portrait of the little boy in the red suit, which hung on the wall between the windows opposite the fireplace. For half of every year it hung at the Met. Mrs. Millers father, Jules Bache, had left it jointly to her and to the museum. As she grew older, it became annually more difficult for the Met to get the painting back. No wonder! The furniture was French and light in scale, covered in unobtrusive silks in soft tones. The curtains, equally light, were made of striped silk and, rather than having elaborate trims and valances, they were made in the simplest possible way, trimming with a self-stripe and hung from a very plain top molding covered in the same material as the curtains themselves."

Both photos from Billy Baldwin Remembers. 


  1. how strange we both featured the same painting at the same time virtually. I enjoyed your information much more than my Met. quote! Also, being British,I knew nothing about Kitty Miller so that was something to follow up. Wonderful post, thank you.

  2. Strange, but good. Even separated by the Pond great minds think alike. I LOVE that photo! Where did you find it? Kitty Miller was an interesting character, apparently had a big chip on her shoulder despite being as rich as Creosus, but had the sense to employ Billy Baldwin as her decorator. She is famous really because of her decorator.

  3. I lived mid-block on 64th street, and serendiptously had the good fortune to visit Kitty's apartment as a guest of Tommy Schippers, whose quarters shared the floor. We guests were treated to a showing of 'Liza With a Z' beneath the Goya. I met another Kitty that night: Mrs. Hart, whose apartment was located at the other end of the block at 64th and Madison. She was utterly charming and a woman of immense compassion and goodness, I felt. We talked landscaping. In any event, I thought it amusing to have "met Kitty at Kitty's" that night. I believe Kitty Miller was in Scotland, or so Mort Gottlieb led me to believe later. The Miller apartment exuded grace and honesty.

  4. Anonymous, thank you. It is such a pleasant surprise to receive a comment so long after I wrote this post. The Miller apartment, judging by photographs, was very beautiful and with none of the false grandeur that obtains today. Every time in go to the Metropolitan I look at the painting of the boy in red - not that it has any significance for me beyond its undoubted beauty, and knowing the story of the sharing of it with the Metropolitan Museum.

    Again, thank you.