The Mary Griggs Burke Collection  

The Mary Griggs Burke Collection

Blog | June 21, 2017

In the exhibition and collection catalogue Bridge of Dreams, published in conjunction with the 2000 Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Masterpieces of Japanese Art from the Mary Griggs Burke Collection, Burke credits her mother, Mary Livingston Griggs, for developing her astute eye and passion for collecting. Livingston Griggs raised the family in her St. Paul, Minnesota childhood home and filled it with old master paintings and European furniture collected from her travels.


In 1968, Mary Griggs Burke bequeathed the home to the Minnesota Historical Society as a museum. Our upcoming Fine Furniture, Decorative Arts and Silver auction will feature a collection of works from the Burbank-Livingston-Griggs House.


Of her childhood home, Mary Griggs Burke wrote, “Throughout mother’s life she found much pleasure in collecting antiques, which on a large scale included complete eighteenth-century paneled European rooms, which were-cleverly and amazingly- installed in the Victorian house.”


Regarding the house’s influence on her collecting, she said, “By the time Mother had finished redoing it, the mid-nineteenth century house contained such a variety of styles and objects from different cultures, including a few Chinese ceramics, that it was like a museum. Living in such an environment undoubtedly helped me to develop a respect for rare, carefully crafted objects, and being surrounded by so many interesting things probably gave me an eclectic taste. Collecting was in my blood.”

Fine Furniture, Decorative Arts and Silver Auction; Mary Griggs Burke Collection
A Regence Gilt Bronze Mounted Parquetry Commode
Fine Furniture, Decorative Arts and Silver Auction; Mary Griggs Burke Collection
Italian School, 17th Century
Fine Furniture, Decorative Art and Silver Auction; Mary Griggs Burke Collection
A Pair of Japanned Wine Cisterns

The objects in our upcoming auction from the Mary Griggs Burke collection provide a glimpse into the family’s appreciation for variety, craftsmanship and historic preservation. This eighteenth-century French commode features an intricate design of parquetry throughout and gilt adornments of cornucopias, female sphinxes and foliage. Similarly, this pair of Japanned wine cisterns is decorated with elaborate garden motifs.


In addition to these works, Mary Livingston Griggs also collected paintings such as this Italian school seventeenth-century canvas.


Influenced by her mother’s own collecting and the eclectic home where she was raised, Mary Griggs Burke went on to become her own prolific collector. Later known as “the Mother of Japanese Art in America,” her donation of objects to the Met provided the museum with one of the most impressive collections of Japanese art in the world.


Professor Emerita at Columbia University Miyeko Murase commented many times on Mary Griggs Burke’s natural ability to understand aesthetics and therefore collect with discerning taste. Property that influenced this from the Burbank-Livingston-Griggs home will be available in our July 17 – 18 Fine Furniture, Decorative Arts and Silver auction, offered by the Minnesota Historical Society.



Fine Furniture, Decorative Arts and Silver

July 17 and 18, 2017

Leslie Hindman Auctioneers

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