In this painting, Walter Gay depicts a corner of a bedroom in his home, the Château du Bréau, which he and his wife purchased furnished in 1907 from the Comtesse de Gramont d'Aster. Appointed and decorated in Louis XVI style, this corner is dominated by an eighteenth-century lit à polonaise, a bed with an oval tester valence suspended from the ceiling from which the green-and-cream striped tester hangings fall to the four corners of the bed. Before the bed is a small Middle Eastern prayer rug that partly covers the parquet flooring laid in the point de Versailles pattern. Two framed works of art and a crucifix hang on the walls. A rococo table de nuit, supporting a vase of fresh flowers, and two neoclassical side chairs, upholstered en suite with the bed, complete the furnishings.
Despite the subdued lighting of the interior, the bed stands out and dominates its surroundings due to its size, exotic design, and the shimmer of its striped silk fabric, especially as relieved against the dull green-gold wall color. In contrast to The Blue Bed (HC.D.1936.34.[P]) with its inviting white linens and simpler chintz hangings, this bed appears more formal and imposing, and this effect is accentuated by the chair placed at the foot of the bed as if waiting for a visitor to sit and converse with the bed’s occupant. This bedroom may have been used by the Comtesse de Gramont d'Aster, as Walter Gay presented her with a similar painting of the bed. (1)
A third version of The Green Bed is also known, which is similar to the version presented to the Comtesse de Gramont d'Aster. (2) This third painting was shown in America in 1911-1912 as “no. 71. Small Interior: The Green Bed” as part of a travelling exhibition of paintings by the Société des Peintres et des Sculpteurs (formerly the Société Nouvelle), of which Walter Gay was a member. Although each of the three versions is similar, being especially consistent in the depictions of the bed, prayer rug, and chair at the foot of the bed, the Dumbarton Oaks painting differs from the other two in the choice of art that hangs on the walls and in the type of table de nuit beside the bed. However, William Rieder has observed that few of Walter Gay’s paintings of the same room “show the same furnishings because furniture, pictures, sculptures, and porcelain were added and moved about at Le Bréau at a rate that belied the ‘calm and complete’ effect so admired by their friends." (3) Moreover, Gay often selected room furnishings, especially bibelots, for his paintings of interiors that would allow him to address concerns of artistic selection, taste, and style, interests similar to those addressed by his friend Edith Wharton in her 1897 book, The Decoration of Houses. (4)
(1) Private Collection. See William Rieder, A Charmed Couple: The Art and Life of Walter and Matilda Gay (New York, 2000), 70, ill. 48. The painting is inscribed: "à Mme La Comtesse de Gramont d'Aster...hommage de Walter Gay."
(2) Present location unknown. The painting was auctioned on June 4, 2000, by Freeman Fine Arts of Philadelphia (Lot 85) and again on December 5, 2000, by William Doyle of New York (Lot 48). Its size, 26 by 21 ½ inches, is nearly double that of the Dumbarton Oaks painting.
(3) Charmed Couple, 58.
(4) Edith Wharton and Ogden Codman, Jr., The Decoration of Houses (New York, 1897).
Rieder, William. "Walter and Matilda Gay in Paris and the country." The Magazine Antiques, vol. 157, no. 6 (December 2000), 862, pl. IX.
Sacred Art, Secular Context, Objects of Art from the Byzantine Collection of Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C., Accompanied by American Paintings from the Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss. Asen Kirin, editor. Athens, GA: Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia, 2005, 166-167, no. 77.
Carder, James. American Art at Dumbarton Oaks. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 2010, 78-81, no. 11.
[Possibly] Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, Exposition Walter Gay, April 1-15, 1908, as “no. 19. Le lit vert, château de [sic] Bréau."
The Georgia Museum of Art, Athens, GA, Sacred Art, Secular Context, May 15-November 6, 2005, no. 77.
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C., American Art at Dumbarton Oaks, Selections from the House Collection, October 26, 2010-February 13, 2011, no. 11.
Purchased from the artist by Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, 1936.
Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, Washington, D.C., until November 29, 1940.
Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, House Collection, Washington, D.C.