THE WORLD OF SAMUEL MEEKER, MERCHANT OF PHILADELPHIA, AND GILBERT STUART, AMERICAN PORTRAIT ARTIST
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Her parents were strict members of the “Society of Friends”. The young Dolly: “… was wondrously fair. Her mother, who would not permit her to wear jewels, taught her to take care of her complexion. She was sent to school with long gloves on her hands and arms, a close sunbonnet and a white linen mask on her face; in fact it is plain to see that in many ways great attention was bestowed upon the outward as well as the inward graces of the young Friend.” (Life and Letters of Dolly Madison by A. C. Clark, W F Roberts Co, Washington DC 1914; p 13, a quote by Harriet T. Upton.) Just before meeting with Madison; she wrote her friend Mrs. Lee, saying, “Dear friend, thou must come to me. Aaron Burr says that the ‘great little Madison’ has asked to be brought to see me this evening.” She was dressed in a mulberry-colored satin, with a silk tulle kerchief over her neck, and on her head an exquisitely dainty little cap, from which an occasional uncropped curl would escape. In this first interview, at her own house, she captured the heart of the recluse book-worm, Madison… always thought to be an irreclaimable old bachelor.” (Memoirs and Letters of Dolly Madison by Dolley Madison, Lucia Beverly Cutts, Houghton, Mifflin &Co. Boston and NY, 1887, p 15)
Dolly gained fame in 1812 by saving Gilbert Stuart's portrait of George Washington from being burned by the British in the War of 1812. “Our kind friend, Mr. Carroll, has come to hasten my departure, and in a very bad humor with me, because I insist on waiting until the large picture of General Washington is secured, and it requires to be unscrewed from the wall. This process was found too tedious for these perilous moments; I have ordered the frame to be broken, and the canvas taken out. It is done! and the precious portrait placed in the hands of two gentlemen of New York, for safe keeping.”
Friday, May 22, 2009
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Soetheby's is having an auction on May 21, of American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture.
All you need is approx. $75,000-$100,000 minimal to offer a bid on this portrait and become the owner!
Another stylistically similar portrait of Cornelius Vanderbilt II by John Singer Sargent is being offered as well. Here, you need the chump change of $150,000 – $250,000.
Whats up with that difference?!!!
CATALOGUE NOTE (courtesy of Sotheby's)
Born on July 17, 1763 in Walldorf, Germany, John Jacob Astor was the first multi-millionaire in American history. The son of a butcher, he emigrated from his home country to England, where he worked with his brother George in London making musical instruments, before traveling to the United States in 1784. Upon arrival in America Astor started trading furs with the native Indian population and by the late 1780s had set up a fur emporium in New York City. By the turn of the century, Astor was worth a quarter of a million dollars. He further compounded his fortune by exporting furs to China in exchange for tea and sandalwood.
Astor's activities were briefly disrupted in 1807, when Thomas Jefferson's Embargo Act put a stop to his overseas trade. However, by April of that year, Astor had secured the president's personal endorsement to found the American Fur Company, which he used to fund the overland Astor Exhibition to the Pacific. The expedition led to the discovery of the South Pass through the Rocky Mountains and the establishment of Fort Astoria, extending his monopoly into the American West. By the 1830s, Astor withdrew from the American Fur Company and sold all of his assets, using the money to invest in large tracts of Manhattan real estate, pre-empting the massive building expansion on the north end of the island. By the time of his death in 1848 Astor was the wealthiest man in America, with an estimated fortune of approximately $20 million, the equivalent to $115 billion today, making him one of the top five richest people in American history. Despite his success, Astor lamented on his deathbed: "Could I begin life again, knowing what I now know, and had money to invest, I would buy every foot of land on the Island of Manhattan."
John Jacob Astor IV , his great-grandson, went down on the Titanic in 1912 when he was only 48 years old (while on a honeymoon with his second wife, the 18 year old Madeleine Talmadge Force). HIS son, Vincent Astor, inherited property all over Manhattan that today would probably be worth a hundred billion.The first John Jacob Astor was as parsimonious as he was rich. Charity and philanthropy were concepts far outside his consciousness. The next three generations of his heirs however impeccably maintained the philanthropist tradition. Brooke Astor (wife of Vincent) summed up her prodigious generosity in nine words: "Money is like manure, it should be spread around."
Friday, May 15, 2009
Both Betsy’s and Jérôme’s portraits not only remained unfinished, they were also never delivered to the Bonapartes. An explanation for this situation is offered by Jane Stuart in Mason p 144 [see ‘sources often used’]; “Jerome Bonaparte, the husband of Madame Bonaparte, was anxious to have her portrait completed, it having been in an unfinished state for some time, but as sitters were crowding in upon my father, this request could not be immediately complied with. Bonaparte deemed it an insult to be so neglected, and when the two came together—Bonaparte and Stuart—the painter thought that the remarks addressed to him were impertinent; the result was Bonaparte could not get possession of his own or his wifes’s portrait on any terms. He sent his friends to offer any price, but these offers made no impression on Stuart.”
and Mason quotes Dunlap; “Stuart’s manner was such as to make his sitters feel that he was not to be trifled with. Many a fne head was taken from his easel, and obliterated, or sent to the garret, for no other reason than that the sitter had broken his engagement, or had in some other way annoyed him.” p. 41
Later American painter Thomas Sully accidentally stepped on the painting of Bonaparte, and recalled that Stuart said, “You needn’t mind. It’s only a ...*#$%^*.. French barber.”
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Oh Oh. Oh oh.
I followed the directions to open windows, but it refused to show its pretty screen with all my documents. I used brute force ie unplugging the computer, which had worked before. The message about tasks came up, I clicked and clicked, and then .... All that happened was the ominous message and then I knew something was dreadfully wrong.
The computer is now at the shop and I am on mz little german laptop where the y and z are transposed so I will now disregard that and tzpe on as usual.
I canät even plus in a kezboard because the connections are different.
The nice man told me the hard drive was fried. It was not a virus, it was bad hardware. A 3 year old Vaio?... that doesn't seem right! Talk about feeling ripped. He tried to get mz data up but was unable to. The tears tricked down. All mz photos!! He said this was the worst part of his job. He said that zou should wake up each morning expecting that all data will be gone. Everybody, get a back up!
Then Lo and behold he tried a different way, and mz files came up!
But now I will have a blank computer to work with (he will put in new hard drive, install new windows, and install mz files.)
I hope to get back to my blogosphere soon. I hope that all my little ideas are saved which were piling up, like more on Jerome and I havenät even answered whether GS did miniatures! Most of all I haven#t said half of what I want to about Samuel, but ahhhh how I wish I could know more. I wish I had access to the newspapers then. Philadelphia at the turn of the century! But hey zou know what, mz blog is SAFE and that is a cool thing.
Pardon the mistakes. A German keyboard is essentiallz the same as an American kezboard, but there are differences.
Thursday, May 7, 2009
But the sister of Joseph Anthony (who ran a merchant shipping business in Philadelphia), Elizabeth Anthony, married the millwright Gilbert Stuart Sr. who came from Perth, Scotland.
Joseph Anthony had a son Joseph Anthony Jr.; Joseph Jr. married Henrietta Hillegas, pictured to the left in a portrait by GS.
Sister Elizabeth Anthony Stuart's child was Gilbert Stuart; thereby, Joseph Jr and Gilbert were first cousins.
Yesterday I received an email from Judy D., her first sentence to me:
I just stumbled onto your blog. My name is Judy D. I am a direct descendant of Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Anthony (my gggg grandparents) and Captain Joseph Anthony (my ggggg grandfather). All of whom sat for Gilbert Stuart. Also…Gilbert Stuart was the nephew of Capt. Anthony…and first cousin to Joseph Anthony.
With understated excitement I wrote her:
The Anthonys are celebrated in the GS lore because his mother was an Anthony, Elizabeth Anthony. And her brother Joseph A had the means to help support Gilbert in those early days, arranging some of his first contacts for work, and possibly helping to support him on his trips to Europe, possibly enabling him to introduce himself to Benjamin West in London ....so most likely you are at least indirectly related to GS?
Any artists in the family? :-)
GS and I are actually 1st cousins, 6 times removed. He and my gggg grandfather were 1st cousins, and I am 6 generations further down the line. ...All of our family has some degree of musical talent, which we come by naturally on both sides. Along with music, my brother has dabbled in painting. My nephew is a surreal artist. My oldest daughter designs & manufacturers her own line of children’s clothing. None of our family has carried on with portraiture.
So this indeed is very exciting. I have asked Judith to look at older photos of her ancestors, to check for resemblances to Mrs. Joseph Anthony Jr. & her husband Joseph Anthony Jr. It can be noted here that Stuart's talent and interest in music equalled his artistic ability; when he first arrived in London age 19, he earned a salary of 150 pounds a year as an organist at the Saint Catherine's Church in Foster Lane. (Hearing auditions, he applied for the position!)
Description of Mrs Joseph Anthony, courtesy of the Met Museum of Art
Mrs. Joseph Anthony, Jr. (1766–1812) was born Henrietta Hillegas in Philadelphia, the daughter of Michael Hillegas, the first treasurer of the United States. She married Joseph Anthony, Jr. a silversmith, on December 29, 1785. This picture, painted probably between 1795 and 1798, compares with many other portraits of society women that Stuart painted in Philadelphia around this time. Although Stuart abandoned his London manner in his more forthright portrayals of men, he continued to infuse the portraits of female sitters like Mrs. Anthony with an almost sensuous vitality.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
Jerome took part in the failed Russian campaign of 1812, and went into exile upon the fall of Napoleon a year later. In 1815 he fought alongside Napoleon in the battle of Waterloo, and upon this loss once again went into exile as “Duke von Montfort.” He lived in Austria, Italy and Switzerland before his nephew Louis Napoleon appointed him Marshall in 1850. Jerome became a Senator in 1852.
Next- the Stuart portrait of Jerome, why did it remain unfinished? Was Jerome pleased with the portrait? Was Stuart pleased with Jerome?