Thursday, January 26, 2012

my most visited post; 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)

From the Lawrence Park Volume:

Mrs James Madison 1768-1849

Dorothy Todd Payne was a daughter of John and Mary (Coles) Payne of North Carolina. She married, first, in 1786, John Todd (died 1789) of Philadelphia, and second, in 1794, James Madison (q.v.).

Philadelphia, early in 1804. Canvas, 30 x 25 in. Mrs. Madison, writing to her sister from Montpelier, June 3, 1804, says: "Stuart has taken an admirable likeness of Mr. Madison; both his and mine are finished." This half-length portrait shows Mrs. Madison seated, half-way to the left, in a crimson upholstered chair, with her hands folded in her lap, and her grayish-blue eyes directed to the spectator. Her dark brown hair is dressed in curls on her forehead and in front of her ears. She wears a low-necked, short-sleeved white dress, trimmed with an edging of lace and two rows of narrow gold ribbon around the neck and sleeves. A yellow gauze scarf is draped over her right arm and is brought around onto the left arm of the chair. Around her neck a gold chain is wound four times, and a small gold and topaz brooch is fastened to the front of her dress. A crimson curtain is draped in the background and to the left is a column on a parapet with a cloud-flecked sky in the distance. ...This portrait of Mrs. Madison was bought at public auction just after her death by her adopted daughter, Anna Payne, afterwards the wife of Doctor Causten. Mrs. Causten bequeathed it to her daughter Mary Carvallo Causten, wife of John Kunkel of Washington, DC. On November 6, 1899, the portrait was acquired by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Does the General not exist?

This has NEVER happened to me before. My sleuthing has left me empty handed!!

A Gilbert Stuart painting of a male, in a fine red uniform, is up for auction at Christie's this coming January 26. If one is willing to shed a minimum of $25,000. one may offer up a bid; the price is determined to be somewhere between $25,000. to $35,000. This dashing warrior is named General R. Grenville.

But I can NOT find "General R. Grenville 1745-1823" anywhere. He is not listed in any known source (to me) of Stuart paintings including of course the Lawrence Park volumes and George Mason. I can not find him anywhere on the internet. What?? A General that can not be found...on the internet? How possible is that? Usually any individual that was painted by Stuart had mounds of money and connections, and should be able to be found!

Is there no frame on the canvas? No date is provided for when the portrait was done, nor location. All rather odd.

If any of my readers has some information, please send it on over. !! If you plan to submit an offer on this portrait, which seems to have in fact all the hallmarks of a Stuart, I would check with the experts first. The man has a fancy name, but may not be who one thinks he is. !! And certainly there are/were expert copiers out there, willing to pass off a fake Stuart, I would imagine. Why does the history of the painting begin c. 1946? And what also raises my suspicion is that there are no other 'Grenvilles' painted by the master. Yes my Meeker was not listed by Park or Mason, but there was a Stuart painting of William Meeker listed in Park. That, in addition to my Provenance (click here for the history of ownership of the Meeker painting) from day one (Samuel gifted his portrait to his twin sister Phoebe on their 40 birthday--well ok the birthday part is my theory), is ample proof that Samuel is the genuine thing. Also in the above portrait, there is an inscription in the lower left naming the sitter. That was not usual for Stuart to do, although perhaps someone else painted in the inscription at a later date.

There is a Providence of 'General R. Grenville 1745-1823' , but what is left out is significant. This information is courtesy of Christie's. As is the image of the portrait of the general above.

Provenance (quoted directly from Christie's)
Captain Richard Neville, Butleigh Court, Glastonbury; Christie's, London, 5 April 1946 lot 58 (380 gns. to Polak).with Leggatt Brothers, London, 1953, where purchased byDaniel H. Farr.Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 24 November 1965, lot 74 (£1400 to J. Maas).Vincent Price.with Sears, Roebuck and Co., Chicago, 1966, from whom purchased by the present owners. PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF DR. AND MRS. FRANCIS D. FOWLER

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