Trump fancied several of the pieces in the U.S. ambassador’s historic residence in Paris, where he was staying, and on a whim had them removed and loaded onto Air Force One, according to people familiar with the matter. The works — a portrait, a bust, and a set of silver figurines — were brought back to the White House.
The decision to cancel Trump’s visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery outside Paris is under new scrutiny after the Atlantic magazine on Thursday published a bombshell report that Trump belittled the American servicemen buried there, part of a broader history of disparaging certain people who’ve served in the military. Trump has vehemently denied making the comments about “suckers” and “losers” in the armed forces.
Never previously reported is Trump’s spur-of-the-moment art caper before leaving the ambassador’s residence.
The story unfolded like this: While in Paris with other world leaders to commemorate the centennial of the end of World War I, Trump stayed at the official residence of U.S. Ambassador Jamie McCourt, the palatial Hôtel de Pontalba. The mansion, in Paris’s chic 8th arrondissement, dates to 1842. It has served as a flagship of the State Department’s “Art in Embassies” cultural diplomacy program, and is open to tours.
The next day, Trump pointed out a Benjamin Franklin bust, a Franklin portrait and a set of figurines of Greek mythical characters, and insisted the pieces come back with him to Washington.
McCourt, the ambassador, was startled, but didn’t object, according to people briefed on the incident. Trump later quipped that the envoy would get the art back “in six years,” when his potential second term in office would be winding down.
The art, worth about $750,000 according to one of the people familiar with the episode, was loaded aboard Air Force One while Trump visited another cemetery before the flight back to Washington.
Trump’s move prompted some hair-pulling and a furious exchange of emails back home between the State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations and White House officials who organized the art transfer. Ultimately, because the art is U.S. government property, the move was deemed legal.
The figurines that caught Trump’s eye found a new home on the fireplace mantel in the Oval Office. Depicting Greek gods, they date to the early 20th century and were made by Neapolitan artist Luigi Avolio, who was trying to pass them off as sculptures from the 16th or 17th centuries, according to London-based art dealer Patricia Wengraf.
In an “Antiques Roadshow” moment, Wengraf described the figurines as “20th century fakes of wannabe 17th century sculptures,” and of little value.
The French art-collection episode comes with a curious footnote. After White House art curators examined the pieces Trump brought home, the president was told that the Franklin bust was a replica. He joked that he liked the fake better than the original, two people familiar with the episode said.
The Franklin portrait snagged from Paris was also a copy — of the one Joseph Siffred Duplessis painted in France in 1785, which was then held by the National Portrait Gallery a mile from the White House.
The curators removed a different portrait of the founding father from the Oval Office and borrowed the original Duplessis from the gallery. That one now hangs in the Oval, not the replica Trump ferried out of France.
There is more at the link above. How like his master Putin is tRump’s behavior. He seen something he liked and so felt it was owed to him. Hugs