Cultural Services of the French Embassy & Albertine

Next, we went on to discover a small but very significant part of France here in New York City, the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and its very own Bookstore, Albertine, on the Upper East Side.

While Albertine is not exactly a secret, sitting as it is on the ground floor of the majestic Payne Whitney mansion and being open to the public seven days a week, the other floors of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, that include working and reception spaces, are usually off-limits to most of us, unless invited to an event.

New York loves France, it seems, judging by the constant flow of people making it impossible to photograph the various salons, marble halls and staircases. But I couldn’t leave the place before snapping at least a quick souvenir photo of the most popular item on show that day: Marilyn’s dress.

“‘We are pretty sure that it belonged to her but the mystery remains, we don’t know why it is here, because to our knowledge, she never came to the French Embassy,’ said Benedict de Montlaur, Cultural Counselor of the French Embassy.”

Could it have anything to do with Marilyn’s brief admission to the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Hospital, an experience so traumatic that Marilyn called upon her ex-husband Joe DiMaggio to help have her released, after she was kept in isolation and threatened with a straight jacket? I guess we’ll never know; some secrets are better left untold.

Albertine’s ceiling – a hand-painted mural of constellations, stars, and planets — was modeled after the extraordinary ceiling of the music room at the Villa Stuck in Munich, Germany, crafted by Franz von Stuck (1863-1928). [source]

In this series we revisit three – out of the dozens of – buildings and sites that opened their doors during OHNY weekend, on October 14 & 15th, 2017:

The General Society of Mechanics & Tradesmen of the City of New York
Cultural Services of the French Embassy & Albertine
The Eldridge Street Synagogue


Open House New York weekend takes place every year in October.
Next series coming up:  October 19-20, 2019.

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