I always find it amusing when someone causally mentions a piece of information, which they may have taken for granted, but in fact is mildly stunning to the rest of the world. My Father is a multiple offender when it comes to this.
In a recent conversation, he mentioned a painter who had been a friend of my Grandfather's named Fernand Renard. He said he was a decorative painter for Maison Jansen... But, after googling M. Renard, I could not find a single piece of Jansen's work that was signed or attributed to Fernand Renard. There were certainly pieces that appeared to have his "hand" (see below) and the Duchess of Windsor appears to have collected his paintings as evidenced by the 1998 sale at Sotheby's and this New Yorker Article about that same sale.
So we had to call in THE Jansen expert, Mr. James Archer Abbott who is responsible for these definitive tomes on Maison Jansen (see here & here). He did confirm that M. Fernand did trompe l'oeil painting work for Jansen and thought he had an example of a signed/attributable piece. However, we discovered that this too was not 100% clearly attributable.
So after asking my Father the same question several different ways, and getting a little more information each time, I finally got more than tweet-length answers: M. Fernand was friend of my Grandfather's, they exchanged Christmas cards and ate at Clark's together with Paul Manno (of Jansen), and that my Father remembers my Grandfather telling him M. Renard worked for Jansen. And (perhaps more widely known, but not to me) he also was responsible for Bunny Mellon's famous "potting shed." This was Mrs. Mellon's garden house, her very own Trianon, completely decorated in trompe l'oeil gardening scenes by M. Renard. My father followed up by telling me that he had a small collection of Renard's work, included one or two Christmas cards M. Renard had sent my grandfather...
And, full-disclosure, I have walked by some of these since I was a kid - taking them for granted - completely unaware of their provenance until I asked... Apple doesn't fall far...
All thanks to this initial conversation, we discovered a piece of information which my Father took as a given (that M. Renard did the trompe l'oeil work for Jansen), but was not widely known and in fact hard to prove. However the circumstantial evidence was there: the link was backed up by an Jansen expert, M. Renard worked for some of the same clients as Jansen, M. Renard was friendly with Paul Manno and my Grandfather who sometimes worked for the firm. So now we could tenatively link Fernand Renard to not only Bunny Mellon and the Duchess of Windsor, but Jansen as well!
Below are some of M. Renard's well-known work as well as some pieces from Tony Victoria's collection. And many, many thanks to Mr. James Archer Abbott for his help with this post!!