In a time of federal budget cutting and private hard times, the State Department's Fine Arts Committee has raised almost $3 million in money and furnishings -- the most donations for any one year in the 20-year history of the project, according to Clement E. Conger. He is chairman of the committee and White House curator.
The gifts were acknowledged last night at a festive reception for 500 donors amid the rare and important donated American antiques and paintings in State's top floor Diplomatic Reception Rooms. Guests dined off international delicacies, oysters and shrimp -- "Our midwestern donors especially appreciate the raw bar," Conger said. "No crab claws or caviar as we had last year. Too expensive. We had to cut costs. This year we invited everyone who gave at least $250, but next year our cutoff will be $500."
Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig, speaking at the party, said, "I was going to make the party top secret and off the record to get better press coverage, but I see that the 'Today' show is already here filming us. I used to get a thousand dollars a speech but I've come down in the world. Now the unvarnished Haig only gets 45 cents a copy." Haig was referring to the recent publication in The Washington Post of Notes of some of his private meetings.
The largest gift of last year came from Mr. and Mrs. Fred T. Couper Jr. of Houston, who donated $202,000. The bulk of their gift went to buy an oil portrait of Thomas Jefferson painted by Thomas Sully in 1822.
The second largest gift came from Mr. and Mrs. David S. Ingalls of Shaker Heights, Ohio, who gave $95,000 to buy a pair of portraits of presidents James Madison and John Quincy Adams painted by Charles Bird King in 1826. The portraits belonged to the Marquis de Lafayette. They hang now in Haig's office.
A large collection of Chinese export porcelain made for inventor DeWitt Clinton has been given by Susan Mary Alsop, a Clinton descendant. Coincidentally, a portrait of Clinton by John Trumbull has been given by New York State Senator and Mrs. William Hernstadt. Joel Barlow of Boynton Beach, Fla., a descendant of the Joel Barlow who established the great Kalorama estate in Washington, gave a silver wine cooler, given to his ancestor by Thomas Jefferson.
Selwa (Lucky) Roosevelt, nominated Thursday to the post of U.S. chief of protocol, admired the wine cooler and accepted congratulations from all sides on her nomination. "I have been to parties at the Diplomatic Reception Rooms many times as a journalist and now I'm looking forward to coming back here in my new job."
The Richard Robinsons of Greenwich, Conn., have given a portrait of Mrs. John Montresor by John Singleton Copley, valued at $250,000, as well as a number of English antiques of equal value. Conger said the English furniture will go to Blair-Lee House, the president's guest quarters, soon to be renovated.
Conger and his wife, Lianne, themselves gave a Steinway concert grand piano that has been used in the Benjamin Franklin Room, a 1790 chinoiserie leather screen, a French Empire porcelain vase and a pair of 1780 Delft tobacco jars.
Secretary and Mrs. Haig, the Chief Justice and Mrs. Berger and Conger received the guests, who included Secretary of Defense and Mrs. Caspar Weinberger, Secretary of Agriculture and Mrs. John Block, Secretary of Commerce and Mrs. Malcolm Baldrige, Evangeline Bruce and Mary Breckinridge Patterson. The winner of the fanciest dress hands-down was Kathryn Rundle of Naples, Fla., who wore an ostrich-feather skirt designed by Albert Caparo. Rundle had donated a painting that hangs in Haig's office.