The Art Collections of E.T. Stotesbury
E.T. Stotesbury began his serious art collecting in the 1890's. Like other prosperous American collectors at that time, he focused on European anecdotal paintings as the basis for his art collection. During this period and into the early 1900's, he relied upon the New York art dealer William Schaus and subsequently his nephew Hermann Schaus as the primary sources for his purchases. In 1906, Stotesbury purchased his first English Old Master paintings from Thomas Agnew & Sons in London: The Vernon Children (known as the Whitehaven Romney) and the portrait of Miss Charlotte Margaret Gunning, later Mrs. Digby, both by George Romney.
Shortly after his marriage to Eva Roberts Cromwell in 1912, E.T. Stotesbury began purchasing art and furniture from the English art dealer Joseph Duveen. In January 1914, Duveen Brothers published a book titled Catalogue of the Special Loan Exhibition of Old Masters of the British School. This catalogue contained pictures and descriptions of seventeen paintings by Romney, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Lawrence, Raeburn and Hoppner that had been acquired from Duveen Brothers within the previous three years. The recent purchasers of these paintings were listed as Henry E. Huntington, E.T. Stotesbury, Henry C. Frick, and George J. Gould.
After furnishing their house at 1925 Walnut Street with a sizeable collection of English Old Master portraits from Duveen Brothers, the Stotesburys engaged Duveen to assist them with the decoration of Whitemarsh Hall. Nearly all of this buying was completed by 1923, but the Stotesburys continued to turn to Duveen Brothers for occasional purchases until 1931.
Photo Source: King's Notable New Yorkers, 1899
Joseph Duveen, later Lord Duveen
Photo Source: Springfield Township Historical Society
The Stotesbury collection can be divided into two parts: those items acquired before 1897 (referred to here as The 1897 Collection) and those added afterwards. The influence of Sir Joseph Duveen on the Stotesburys is evidenced by the fact that none of the 1897 Collection appears to have been transferred to Whitemarsh Hall after the mansion was completed in 1921. The paintings in this collection that had not been sold, plus some other paintings acquired before Duveen entered Stotesbury's life, were put into storage after the Walnut Street townhouse was sold in 1925 and ultimately were auctioned off for relatively modest prices through the American Art Association in 1937. As a testament to the fickle nature of the art market, it is ironic that many of the paintings in the 1897 Stotesbury Collection probably would sell for substantial sums today.
Sir Joseph Duveen had little or no influence on the decoration of the El Mirasol and Wingwood houses. It is conceivable that E.T. Stotesbury, seeing how much it cost him to decorate 1925 Walnut Street and Whitemarsh Hall, kept Duveen as far away as possible from the El Mirasol and Wingwood projects. As a result, Eva Stotesbury became primarily responsible for decorating those two houses, in conjunction with their respective architects Addison Mizner and Louis Magaziner.
When E.T. Stotesbury died in 1938, his will directed that his Old Master painting collection be sold. The Clodion, Pajou and Tassaert sculptures were donated by Eva Stotesbury to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and all of the paintings were sold by the end of 1944.
What once had been one of the finest collections of English Old Master paintings in the United States was dispersed throughout the world of independent collectors. Matched paintings like Lawrence's siblings Lady Elizabeth Conyngham and Lady Maria Conyngham and The Hon. Sophia Upton and The Hon. Caroline Upton, and Romney's Sir William Lemon and his wife Lady Lemon were separated for the first time. Fortunately, some of these still can be seen today in various public museums.
In compiling the provenance information pertaining to these works of art, I am indebted to the following persons for their valuable assistance :
Susan K. Anderson, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Dr. Shelley Bennett, Huntington Library, Art Gallery and Gardens
Alan Chong, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Jeffrey Eger, Jeffrey Eger Catalogues
Lindsay Garratt, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute
Nancy E. Green, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art
Clive Hancox, Catholic Philopatrian Literary Institute
Catherine Herbert, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Erika Holmquist-Wall, Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Margaret Iacono, The Frick Collection
Sarah Jones, The Watford Museum
Casie Kesterson, The Getty Museum
Bruce Laverty, The Philadelphia Athenaeum
Juliann McDonough, Addison Gallery of American Art
Michelle Montgomery, Schiller & Bodo European Paintings
Dr. Roger Moss, The Philadelphia Athenaeum
James Mundy, Union League of Philadelphia
Peter Schweller, Peter Schweller Fine Art
Anne Smith, Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Ed Zwicker IV, Springfield Township Historical Society
Perhaps one day, some enterprising entity will bring the best of all of the Stotesbury collections together again under one roof for public viewing. Until then, the entire collection is presented here for your enjoyment in a virtual Stotesbury gallery.
--Wayne C. Willcox