Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Will George Washington be ushered to the White House door as well?!!

Berkeley No. 52 by Richard Diebenkorn

National Gallery of Art

As mentioned in the previous post, pretty Dolly Madison will be taken off the walls of the White House, ushered out so-to-speak, however I suspect that George will stay put. Ok, its a new day, a new beginning. But, what is going ON? The art on the walls of the White House, is changing! Is Michelle is not delighted with the old fashioned flair of this magnificent Stuart portrait? and what about Stuart's GEORGE WASHINGTON?

(Now, actually, I don't feel so bad that my family was not 'enthralled' with the Samuel Meeker portrait. I felt guilty about it, but NO LONGER!)

from the Wall St Journal May 22, 2009: "The Obamas are sending ripples through the art world as they put the call out to museums, galleries and private collectors that they’d like to borrow modern art by African-American, Asian, Hispanic and female artists for the White House. In a sharp departure from the 19th-century still lifes, pastorals and portraits that dominate the White House’s public rooms, they are choosing bold, abstract art works....The National Gallery of Art has loaned the family at least five works this year, including “Numerals, 0 through 9,” a lead relief sculpture by Jasper Johns, “Berkeley No. 52,” a splashy large-scale painting by Richard Diebenkorn..."

A White House spokeswoman says the Obamas enjoy all types of art but want to “round out the permanent collection” and “give new voices” to modern American artists of all races and backgrounds.

We will miss her, she saved the George Washington portrait below from being burned by the British, risking her own life!

1797 -- Gilbert Stuart immortalized George Washington with this historic portrait, one of the first pieces of art hung in the White House. In 1800, the White House paid $800 for the painting -- a significant sum in those days.

(However, Stuart subsequently disavowed this copy of his orginal portrait of the President, called the Lansdowne portrait.)


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Dolly Madison is ushered to the White House door

“Stuart is all the rage…”

Dolly, widowed at age 25 with two children upon the sudden death of her first husband from the yellow fever epidemic which swept through the new capital of the United States, met 38 yr old James Madison in Philadelphia in 1794 after having moved there to be with her Quaker family. They were married soon afterwards.

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 Payne Todd Madison (1768-1849) , 1804 by Gilbert Stuart;

White House Collection

At the time of this portrait of his wife in 1804, James Madison was secretary of state under President Thomas Jefferson, and was elected our 4th President in 1809. Dolly held the FIRST Inaugural Ball, and Washington had never seen such a grand affair! The attendees came from all over the Nation, riding their carriages over muddy and bumpy roads. At this time, James was 54, and Dolly a lovely 41. As First Lady from 1809 to 1817, Dolly was a sparkling asset, using her natural charm, wit, and formidable social skills while hosting numerous lavish entertainments and special occasions at the Executive Mansion. Surely with her trademark costly Parisian gowns (NOTE the empire-waist style as popularized by Josephine), elaborate feathered turbans, wit, charm and intelligence, she rivalled Napoleon’s Josephine in the realm of queenly graciousness on the world stage!

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.”


Why is Dolly being ushered out of the White House? Answer will be in the following post! (or click here)


PS on an artistic note, click on the portrait of Dolly for a closer look at the piece of material draped over her right arm & right-hand lower corner. There are characteristic swift swishes of Stuart's brush (creating a superb depiction of her shawl) and something to look for addition to the skill of drawing the 'likeness of the head'... as "his signature." Wondrous. One can also clearly note the stark similarities in arrangement to the portrait of Samuel Meeker, both portraits done in approx the same time period.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Lovely Lily Grace, Prom night, and Germany

Lily Grace, named after my grandmother ("pure as the lily by the grace of God"), is the direct descendant of Phebe Meeker, twin sister of Samuel Meeker. Phebe Meeker must have been a lovable creature, for her brother to commission a Gilbert Stuart portrait for her birthday!

Prom night last Saturday at Chaminade here in Santa Cruz! Aren't the ladies a picture of beauty and happiness? Most of the girls are seniors, Lily and her friend Ashley (to Lily's left) are juniors.

Lily is half German. Her father is Wilhelm Kley, professor of astrophysics at the Universität Tübingen. We got a divorce late 90s, in eastern Germany, which was not easy. One of the first things my lawyer said to me (paid for by the state, thankyou) was that I would need to get a job. I looked at her, and wondered if I should try to find someone else.... in Germany you need "training" to get a job in a bakery to learn how to wrap the baked goods properly.

In the end I taught English at the Euro-Business-College (EBC) in Jena. The college was located up a hill in a 'schloss' a few kilometers outside of the stadtcentrum; in this residential area the roads became narrower and narrower and there was no parking. On a certain rainy day I obstinately refused to park at the base of the hill like I usually did, and crept up in the car in the driving rain, finally finding a narrow spot next to the wall of a rectangular house. Cool! I thought. Then I heard a LOUD CRUNCH, as the lower side of my car hit a large but low stone strategically placed to stop cars from doing exactly what I was trying to do.

The Man took the car in the end, saying I owed him because of the damage. ...only one story from this hard time.....For the remaining years Lily and I had no car. I tried to live that way when I came back to Ca in Sept 2004, but it was not possible. Even Lily drives now!

Back to my LOVELY LILY. She is the second from the right in the black and white dress. My life would have been only a shade of what it is, if she were not part of my life. I am blessed.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

For a trifling sum of money

John Jacob Astor
by Gilbert Stuart c. 1794
you can own an ASTOR!
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

Gibby disses Jérôme Bonaparte in his inimitable way

Jérôme (1784-1860), youngest brother of Napoleon Bonaparte, dared to marry an American woman, but was forced by Napoleon to divorce and marry a princess in order to strengthen the reputation of the young French king. To emphasize his rank as ruler (Germany), Jérôme commissioned grandiose state portraits of himself and his royal spouse [see post May 5 09]. But before this, c.1804, when married to Betsy, Gilbert Stuart was commissioned to do portraits of both himself and his American wife [for the Betsy portrait see post of April 28 09].
Jerome Bonaparte by Gilbert Stuart 1804; private collection

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

shock awe and a computer crash

Yesterday morning all was fine, by the afternoon everything was in shambles. In the last couple of weeks, a couple of times my desktop had taken its time loading, I thought nothing of it. But yesterday in the afternoon it didnät load again, and I did all the pushing of buttons I could, leading to a black monitor with a white message; informing me most "unfortunately" that windows was unable to open.
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

Judith: descended from the Anthony family!

The name Anthony will not mean much to most.
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 most likely you are at least indirectly related to GS?
Any artists in the family? :-)

Her reply:
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 and his Queen

Katharina von Württemberg - sie war diejenige, die Napoleon für seinen Bruder Jerome als Ehefrau ausgesucht hatte. Ihn machte er in seinem neu geschaffenen Königreich Westphalen, das nur von 1807-1813 bestand, zum König, sie zu seiner Königin. Katharina wurde 1783 in St. Petersburg geboren und wuchs unter anderem am russischen Zarenhof und in Stuttgart auf. Obwohl sich die jungen Leute vor der Trauung in Paris nie gesehen hatten, wurde Jerome für Katharina die Liebe ihres Lebens. Sie ging als Königin von Westphalen mit ihm nach Kassel, sah über seine zahlreichen Eskapaden großzügig hinweg, hielt durch alle Höhen und Tiefen zu ihm und folgte ihm nach dem Verlust des Throns ins Exil. Erst nach ihrer Zeit als Königin von Westphalen gebar sie Jerome drei Kinder. Sie starb 1834 im Alter von nur 52 Jahren in Lausanne. Begleiten Sie uns zu den wichtigsten Stationen des Lebensweges einer bemerkenswerten Frau in turbulenter Zeit und lesen Sie, hier erstmals veröffentlicht, Auszüge aus ihren Briefen aus ihrer Zeit als Königin in Kassel.

Frau Katharina von Württemberg

As mentioned in the post of April 28, Jerome Bonaparte (1784-1860), while in the French Navy was ordered by his brother Napoleon to take refuge in Virginia whereupon he fell in love with a young American lady, married her, and was promptly obliged to divorce her by order of Napoleon, who surely dangled even more spectacular riches to persuade his younger brother to take such actions. Four years later in 1807 an appropriate marriage was arranged and a pretty princess was plucked from a German kingdom; the Princess Katharina von Württemberg (1783–1835), daughter of King Friedrich I, and soon afterwards Jerome was crowned “King of Westphalia.”
King Jerome had time to implement the Code of Napoleon before the fall of the Napoleonic regime in Germany. The couple fled back to Paris. Katharina stayed true to her vows to the wayward Jerome, and stayed married to him until her death in 1835.
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.
He remarried a third time, to Giustine Pecori–Suárez.

Jerome and Katharina admiring a portrait of Emperor Napoleon.

Next- the Stuart portrait of Jerome, why did it remain unfinished? Was Jerome pleased with the portrait? Was Stuart pleased with Jerome?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Descendants, direct from Phebe Meeker (twin sister of Samuel)

Samuel Meeker, although married twice, had no children.

He gifted his portrait to his twin sister Phebe on their 40ieth birthday, is my *best* speculation (more on why, later). Of course it would have been a grand celebration! Gifting an image of one's self, whether a simple silhouette, small miniature, or full-sized portrait, to a loved one, was common, and popularized even more by our Gilbert Stuart. Before I was aware of this, I had thought that perhaps Samuel and his cousin William Meeker had had their portraits done to hang in their business office! That the twin siblings Samuel and Phebe were close can be easily surmised, as they migrated over to Philadelphia from the home state of New Jersey, and Phebe was first married to Samuel's business partner Alexander Cochran.
Thus we are direct descendants of Phebe Meeker Brookfield (see post from April 2 2009 which depicts family tree.)

Pictured are my daughter Lily at far left, & my niece (Katie) and nephews (Christopher, Patrick, John, and Peter [Ahrens]) children of my two brothers. The photo is taken at Shaver Lake the summer of 06. Our family has gone to Shaver Lake, in the Sierra mountains of Ca, every summer since the kids were little.
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