The only known oil on canvas portrait of a teenaged Jacqueline Bouvier Onassis is in the Wallace Art Gallery in East Hampton, and is for sale, after a lawsuit challenging the provenance of the painting was dropped January 31.
Terry Wallace, the gallery owner, displayed the painting for The Independent on Sunday. It is by Irwin D. Hoffman, and was commissioned by Jackie’s father, “Black” Jack Bouvier, when the future wife of President John F. Kennedy was convalescing after being thrown from a horse.
Jan Potkker wrote about the incident and the painting in her book, “Janet and Jackie.” It was the summer of 1950. Jackie’s mother, the former Janet Lee Auchincloss, and father were divorced. “The family had a scare in the summer when Jackie was visiting Jack Bouvier in East Hampton,” Potkker writes. “She fell off her horse and was unconscious for several days, badly alarming her father. When she recovered, he scraped together enough money to commission society painter Irwin Hoffman for a portrait of Jackie that shows a scar over her right eye.”
Jackie Bouvier eventually gave the painting to her riding teacher in East Hampton, Theresa Schey, who was the head of the Riding Club of East Hampton. When Schey died, she left the painting to her daughter, Theresa Maloney. Maloney owned Village Antiques at 11 Newtown Lane with her business partner, Mildred Greenwald. It was there that Wallace first spotted the painting in 1990 after Maloney had died.
He actually was more interested in a floral painting that was on display, and made an offer for that work and the Bouvier portrait, which is about 12 inches tall. Greenwald said no. Wallace picked up two rubber bands from the counter, and wrapped them around the cash he had offered. Every so often, he would return to the shop, and flash the cash, saying, “I still have your money here.” Finally, in December, Greenwald said, “Yes.”
Greenwald later gave Wallace a box of photos of Jackie at the Riding Club of East Hampton, which he eventually donated to the East Hampton Historical Society, which used some of them in a recent show on Jackie in East Hampton.
In 2018, Bouvier Beale Jr., a cousin of Jackie’s, sued Wallace, claiming that the painting actually had been property of Big Edie and Little Edie Beale, the reclusive East Hampton socialites made famous by the 1975 cult movie “Grey Gardens.” Bouvier Jr. was the executor of the Beales’ estate. Wallace would not comment on the suit, though, at the time, reports indicate, he turned over provenance to his attorney.
On January 31, the suit was dropped “amicably,” Wallace said. Now, Wallace is looking for one thing: “A good home for Jackie.”