Typically, at the annual Rienzi Society Dinner there is much consternation by the voting membership over which of the varied artworks presented for acquisition should join the vaunted collection of European decorative arts. But at the 2013 dinner, the consensus seemed to be that the story behind the 18th century portrait was so compelling as to make the decision a no-brainer.
The portrait of Capt. Edward Knowles was commissioned by his father after the young man's death at sea. Famed British-born portraiture artist Francis Cotes painted the image from a silhouette of the 20-year-old (thus the side view) and from the father's description.
During the cocktail hour, the 86 guests perused the objects of desire, discussing their favorites and catching up with holiday news.
The offerings for consideration, pulled together by Rienzi curators and committee chairs Cyvia Wolff and Rosslyn Crawford, included an 18th century sterling silver tea kettle, stand and lamp; an Axminster carpet and a pair of French Bergeres (upholstered arm chairs).
During the cocktail hour, the 86 guests perused the objects of desire, discussing their favorites and catching up with holiday news. Biggest news of the night was the recent marriage between Jerry Ann Woodfin and fashion designer Victor Costa.
While the black-tie-attired group feasted on a four-course dinner from Jackson and Co., Museum of Fine Arts, Houston director Gary Tinterow and Rienzi director Katherine Howe offered brief remarks. Following her description of the objects to be considered, guests voted to purchase the $240,000 painting.
Applauding the decision were dinner chairs Cindy and Jim Thorp and Ann and Leslie Doggett, plus Isla and Tommy Reckling, Carroll Goodman, Christiana and Luke McConn, Christopher Gardner, Melissa and Doug Schnitzer, James Reckling, Jeanie Kilroy, Ann Trammell and Cliffe Reckling.