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13.06.2007 | what’s on
by The Getty Research Institute

Government Officials and Preservationists Gather to Celebrate 60th Anniversary of Marshall Plan and Restoration of its Historic Home.
“Into this palace, as a spider into its web, he enticed and captured, one by one, heroes, thinkers, conquerors, princes, emperors, Bonaparte, Sieyes, Madame de Staël, Chauteaubriand, Benjamin Constant, Alexandre de Russie, Guillaume de Prusse, François d’Autriche, Louis XVIII, Louis-Philippe, and all the gilded glittering flies which buzz through the history of these past forty years.” – Victor Hugo on the death of Talleyrand

LOS ANGELES—If the Hôtel de Talleyrand’s elaborately paneled and gilded walls could talk, they would tell of momentous events in European history.

In 1814, Czar Alexander I, the King of Prussia, and Lord Wellington met there to negotiate peace and restore the French monarchy. In 1948, the Hôtel de Talleyrand housed the programs of the Marshall Plan, which supported economic restoration and long-term recovery in Western Europe after World War II.

Now owned by the U.S. State Department and housing the George C. Marshall Center, it continues to host meetings, receptions, conferences, and other events for distinguished guests. Thanks in part to a grant by the Getty Foundation, it does so almost as grandly as when Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord, Prince de Benevent, called it home.

In 2003, the Getty Foundation gave the State Department a grant of $180,000 to implement a conservation plan for the historic building, constructed between 1767 and 1769 as a private residence for the Comte de Saint-Florentin, a personal friend of Louis XV and one of the most influential figures of his reign. In 1812, the statesman Talleyrand made the mansion his Parisian residence, hosting the most prominent members of European society within its formal rooms. He died at the mansion in 1838.

The U.S. government bought the Hôtel de Talleyrand in 1950 from the family of Baron James-Mayer de Rothschild, who had purchased it after Talleyrand’s death.

Gracing the Place de la Concorde, it is on the list of the French Administration of Monuments and Buildings and is one of only seventeen properties on the United States Secretary of State’s Register of Culturally Significant Properties.

Two hundred and thirty years of activity had taken its toll on the building’s decors. The State Department sought funds from the Getty, and other private donors, to historically restore the 10 rooms now known as the George C. Marshall Center to their original layout and grandeur.

Like other buildings of the period, the Hôtel de Talleyrand was designed with a strict hierarchy of rooms that progressed from the most public to the most private and privileged spaces. The doors to each room were in a row; fireplaces faced each door. A visitor clearly progressed from the largest to the most intimate room.

Funds from the Getty Foundation were used to help restore the building’s Grand Reception Room and State Office, including carved panels painted surfaces, stucco decorations, and gilding.

“With the thorough research that informed this restoration, and the careful planning for its future stewardship, this project could well serve as a model for sites owned by the Federal government,” said Deborah Marrow, director of the Getty Foundation.

Dr. Marrow also lauded the project for the opportunities it created for skilled craftsmen. Dozens of painters, gilders, weavers, carvers, from some of the finest firms in Paris, contributed to the restoration project, which has gone on for eight years.

“The Getty is delighted to have contributed not only to this wonderful restoration, but to the training and education opportunities it has presented for the artists who worked on it,” she said.

“With the extraordinary grant from the Getty, not only was the Department able to use the grant to proceed with the restoration, but it enabled the Department to begin the establishment of their Cultural Heritage Maintenance Program, to now be able to protect and maintain the Department of State’s Culturally Significant Assets and Properties, an outstanding number and value of which have now been identified,” said Vivien Woofter, former Director of the Interior Design and Furnishings Division.

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