LAWRENCE STEIGRAD FINE ARTS

Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and British Portraits

 
 
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ANATOLE VÉLY (Ronsoy [Somme] 1838 - Paris 1882)

Le Coeur S’Éveille (Awakening of the Heart)

signed Vély and dated 1880. in the lower right

oil on canvas

98 5/16 x 58 1/4  inches          (249.7 x 147.9 cm.)


PROVENANCE

M. Knoedler & Company, New York (purchased at the Salon of 1880)

Hercules Louis Dousman II, St. Louis, Missouri, 1880

Mr. H.L. Dousman’s Gallery of Valuable Paintings, George A. Leavitt & Co., New York, May 8-9, 1884, lot 86, illustrated, where purchased by

Daniel William Powers, Rochester, New York, who established

Powers’ Art Gallery, Rochester, New York

Valuable Paintings, Sculpture and Grand Clock Selected from the Powers Art Gallery Collection, The American Art Association, New York, January 18-20, 1899, p. 74, no. 272, lot 272, where purchased by

H.F. Huber & Co., New York, for

Charles Fred Dietrich, New York

Charles Fred Dietrich sale, Valuable Paintings and Two Important Tapestries, Anderson Galleries, Inc., New York, April 8-9, 1920, lot 130, where purchased by

Dr. Muller

Hulett C. Merritt, Pasadena, California

Estate of Hulett C. Merritt sale, Ames Art Galleries, Beverly Hills, California, June 3, 1956, where purchased by Private Collector, South Pasadena, California, until 2014

 

EXHIBITED

Paris, Salon de 1880, no. 3768, awarded medal second class

St. Louis, Missouri, St. Louis Exposition and Fair, opened October 4, 1880

 

LITERATURE

Salon de 1880, Exposition Officielle, Explication des Ouvrages de Peintre, Sculpture, Architecture, Gravure et Lithographie des Artistes Vivants, Nationale Imprimerie, Paris, May 1, 1880, p. 303, no. 3768

Liste des Récompenses, Médailles De 2e Classe” and “La Peintre du Genre” in L’Exposition des Beaux Arts, Salon de 1880, Goupil et Cie, Paris, 1880, unpaginated, (drawing by the artist for Le Coeur S’Éveille reproduced)

Georges Limbourg, “Vély - Le Coeur s’éveille” in La Vie Mondaine, Paris, May 13, 1880, p. 7

“Le Salon” in Journal Des Grands Voyages, no. 173, Paris, May 23, 1880, unpaginated, no. 3768

“France, Paris, June 2” in The Times, London, June 3, 1880, p. 5

“The Paris Salon” in The Architect, A Weekly Illustrated Journal of Art, Civil Engineering and Building, volume 23, London, June 5, 1880, p. 387

“Récompenses Décernées Par Le Jury du Salon: Deuxiemes médailles” in L’Univers Illustre, no. 1316, Dumoutet, Paris, June 12, 1880, p. 375

“Causeries d’un Flaneur au Salon de 1880” in Le Moniteur D’Issoire, no. 24, Bounoure & Ollier, June 16, 1880, p. 1

E.W. G., “The Royal Academy and the Salon” in The British Architect and the Northern Engineer, volume 13, London, June 18, 1880, pp. 292-293

Frédéric de Syène, “The Salon of 1880” in The American Art Review, Dana Estes and Charles E. Lauriat, volume 1, no. 12, Boston, October 1880, p. 537

Lucy C. Hooper, “Art Notes from Paris, The Prize Pictures at the Salon” in The Art Journal for 1880, Appleton & Co. Publishers, volume 6, New York, p. 253

F. G. Dumas, Catalogue illustré du Salon contenant deux cent reproductions d’après les dessins originaux des artistes, Sections de Peintre et de Sculpture, Édition Autorisée, Paris, December 1880, pp. 66, 128, no. 3768 (drawing by the artist for Le Coeur S’Éveille reproduced)

Oscar Havard, “Le Salon de 1880” in Le Contemporain: Revue D’Economie Chrétienne, Jules Le Clere, Paris, 1880, p. 171

“Journal de la Quinzaine” in La Nouvelle Revue, volume 4, Paris, 1880, p. 943

A. Genevay, “Salon de 1880” in Le Musée Artistique et Littéraire, Libraire de L’Art, Paris, 1880, p. 334

Maurice du Seigneur, L’Art et Les Artistes au Salon de 1880, Motteroz, Paris, 1880, p. 190

Edward Strahan (pseudonym for Earl Shinn), “Collections in the City of Saint Louis, Mr. H. L. Dousman’s Collection” in The art treasures of America; being the choicest works of art in the public and private collections of North America, volume 2, George Barrie Publisher, 1880, pp. 62-63, 66 (drawing by the artist for Le Coeur S’Éveille reproduced)

“Le Coeur s’éveille tableau de M Vély” in Le Monde Illustré, no. 1254, Paris, April 9, 1881, pp. 229-230 (illustrated with F. Moller’s engraving)

Victor Champier, “Salon de 1880, Liste des Récompenses Décernées Par Le Jury, Deuxièmes Médailles” in L’Année Artistiques 1880 – 1881, A. Quantin, Paris, 1881, p. 572

“Liste des Récompenses Décernées Par Les Jurys du Salon de 1880” in Salon de 1881, Exposition Officielle Explication des Ouvrages de Peintre, Sculpture, Architecture, Gravure et Lithographie, Charles De Mourgues Frères, Paris, 1881, unpaginated & p. xxxv

Eugene Montrosier, “A. Vely” in Les Artistes Modernes, Goupil & Cie, Paris, 1881, p. 2

U.D., “Les Influences du Renouveau” in La Mosaïque, Revue Pittoresque Illustrée, volume 9, Bureaux de la Mosaïque, Paris, 1881, p. 161 (illustrated with F. Moller’s engraving)

“St. Louis”, in The American Art Review, volume II, Dana Estes and Charles E. Lauriat, Boston, 1881, p. 40

“Obituary, Anatole Vely. French Painter” in The Evening Telegram, New York, January 12, 1882, p. 4

Le Rappel, no. 10, January 13, 1882, p. 2

“Nécrologie – M. Anatole Vély” in Courrier de L’Art, no. 3, Libraire de L’Art, Paris, January 19, 1882, p. 35

La Justice, no. 729, Paris, January 19, 1882, p. 2

“Notes from Paris” in The Architect and Building News, volume 27, no. 680, January 21, 1882, p. 39

“M Vely” in Le Monde Illustré, no. 1382, Paris, January 21, 1882, p. 39

“Foreign Art Notes” in The Evening Post, New York, February 8, 1882, p. 4

“Necrologie” in La Chronique des Arts et de la Curiosité, Supplement à la gazette des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1882, p. 11

Louis Viardot, The Masterpieces of French Art, volume II, Gebbie & Co. Publishers, Philadelphia, 1883, p. 39

Adolphe Siret, “Anatole Vely” in Dictionnaire Historique et Raisonné des Peintres, Ch. Peeters, Louvain, 1883, p. 480

“Mlle. Julie Dupont” in Société des Artistes Français pour L’Exposition des Beaux-Arts de 1883, Salon de 1883, E. Bernard et Cie, Paris, 1883, p. 252, no. 2767, (lists the porcelain plaque Dupont executed and exhibited after Vély’s Le Coeur S’Éveille)

J. Thomas Scharf, “Hercules L. Dousman” in History of the Saint Louis City and County, From the Earliest Periods to the Present Day: Including Biographical Sketches of Representative Men, volume II, Louis H. Everts & Co., Philadelphia, 1883, p. 1,620

“Paintings Sold at Fair Prices” in The New York Times, New York, May 10, 1884, p. 2 (H.L. Dousman Collection)

Emile Bellier de la Chavignerie & Louis Auvray, “Anatole Vely” in Dictionnaire général des artistes de l’école Française, volume II, Libraire Renouard, Paris, 1885, p. 646

Catalogue général des photographies inaltérables au charbon et héliogravures faite d’après les originaux Peintres, Fresques, Dessins et Sculptures des principaux Musées d’Europe, des Galeries et Collections particulières le plus remarquables, A. D. Braun & Cie, Paris, 1887, p. 528, no. 1038 (photogravures of Le Coeur S’Éveille were available in 3 sizes, reissued 1896)

Journal Général de L’Imprimerie et de la Libraire, Braun et Cie, Paris, 1887, unpaginated, no. 902

James Delafield Trenor, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Powers’ Art Gallery, Rochester, N.Y., K. R. Andrews, Rochester, N.Y., 1888, unpaginated, no. 65 (reissued 1891, 1897)

“D. W. Powers, Powers Building, Banking House and Art Gallery” in The Industries of the city of Rochester, Elstner Publishing Co., Rochester, N.Y., 1888, p. 83

George Lafenestre, “Anatole Vely” in Le Livre D’Or du Salon de Peintre et de Sculpture, Libraire des Bibliophiles, Paris, 1889, p. 17, no. 3768

Pierre Larousse, “Anatole Vely” in Grand Dictionnaire Universel, Deuxième Supplément, volume 17, Administration du grand dictionnaire Universel, 1890, p. 1,976

Alfred Trumble, ed., “The Collector, The D. W. Powers Collection” in The Art Collector: A Journal Devoted to the Arts and the Crafts, volume 5, no. 1, New York City, November 1, 1893, p. 109

Gaston Schefer, Catalogue des Estampes, Dessins et Cartes composant Le Cabinet des Estampes de la Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, La Chronique Parisienne, Paris, 1894, p. 550, no. 16

W. A. Cooper, “Private Picture Galleries in the United States” in Godey’s Magazine, volume 130, no. 775, January, 1895, pp. 137-138

W. A. Sherwood, “Daniel W. Powers” in The Canadian Magazine of Politics, Science, Art and Literature, volume V, May - October 1895, p. 474

“The Powers Art Sale Closes” in The New York Times, New York, January 21, 1899, p. 2

“The Collector” in The Art Amateur: Devoted to Art in the Household, volume 40, no. 3, New York, London, February, 1899, p. 53

Florence N. Levy, ed., “Daniel W. Powers Collection” in American Art Annual, The Art Interchange Co., N.Y., 1899, p. 55, no. 272

“Anatole Vely” in Ville D’Amiens Catalogue Descriptif des Tableaux & Sculpture du Musée de Picardie, Piteux Frères, Amiens, 1899, p. 122

John Denison Champlin, Jr. & Charles C. Perkins, eds. “Anatole Vely” in Cyclopedia of Painters and Paintings, volume IV, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1900, p. 336

Hans Wolfgang Singer, “Anatole Vely” in Allgemeines Künstler – Lexicon Leben und Werte der Berühmtesten Bildenden Künstler, volume 4, Rutter & Loening, Frankfurt, 1901, p. 495

“Anatole Vely” in The Saint Louis Museum of Fine Arts Catalogue, Saint Louis, MO., 1901, p. 77

C. H. Stanahan, A History of French Painting From its Earliest to its Latest Practice, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1902, p. 441

“Anatole Vely” in The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Norman T. A. Munder & Co., Baltimore, MD., 1902, p. 95, (reissued 1917, 1919)

Abel Patoux, Mémoires de la Société Académique, volume XV, Saint Quentin, Aisne, 1907, pp. 87, 89

“Dietrich Paintings Sale” in American Art News, volume 18, no. 23, March 27, 1920, p. 6

“Dietrich Picture Sale” in American Art News, volume 18, no. 26, April 17, 1920, p. 9

American Art Annual, volume XVII, American Federation of Arts, Washington, D.C., 1920, p. 336

Virginia Dousman Bigelow, Biographical and historical notes, 195(?)

E. Bénézit, “Anatole Vely” in Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, volume 10, Librairie Gründ, Paris, 1976, p. 433

Fritz Nies, Imagerie de la lecture: Exploration d’un patrimoine millénaire de l’Occident, Presses Universitaires de France, 1995, p. 35

Pierre Sanchez, Dictionnaire des céramistes, peintres sur porcelaine, verre et émail, verriers et émailleurs, exposant dans les salons, expositions universelles, industrielles, d’art décoratif, et des manufactures nationales, 1700-1920, volume 1, L’Echelle de Jacob, Dijon, c. 2005, p. 511, no. 2767 (Julie Dupont, Le Coeur s’eveille, d’après M. Vély, porcelaine)

Pierre Sanchez and Xavier Seydoux, “Salon de 1880” in Les Catalogues des Salons des Beaux-Arts, volume 12, L’Echelle de Jacob, Paris, c. 1999-2014, unpaginated, no. 3768

Pierre Sanchez and Xavier Seydoux, “Salon de 1881, Liste des Recompenses Décernées Par Les Jurys du Salon de 1880” in Les Catalogues des Salons des Beaux-Arts, volume 13, L’Echelle de Jacob, Dijon, c. 1999-2014, unpaginated and p. xxxv

 

ENGRAVED

F. Moller, 1881

A. D. Braun et Cie, 1887

 

Set in a castle a young Princess sits spellbound at the feet of her grandmother the Queen who has momentarily paused in her reading of chivalric tales. The Princess’s embroidery has fallen to her lap as the realization of an unforeseen world filled with romantic possibilities has opened. Simultaneously concern has gripped her grandmother who has sensed the child’s heart awakened. Beautifully rendered with exquisite color and detail, the contrast of age and youth the determinate factor for wisdom and innocence, has been superbly realized. Majestically Le Coeur S’Éveille[1] took the 1880 Paris Salon by storm, a testimonial to its wide appeal. Awarded a second class medal, it was continuously mentioned in the press as a work not to be missed out of the 3,957 paintings on view that year. Postcards and prints of Le Coeur S’Éveille were mass produced in response to its popularity. Purchased at the Salon by M. Knoedler & Company of New York it would pass from one American millionaire to the next throughout the course of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Tragically it would also be Anatole Vély’s final masterpiece.

Vély was born in Ronsoy, located in northern, France of humble parentage. At a young age he was fortunate enough to be apprenticed to a mechanical draftsman, M. Patrouillard of Saint-Quentin. From 1853-1857 he also received lessons from M. Q. De Latour of the École de Dessin in Saint-Quentin. Biographers would later note that his financial circumstances were so dire that “during his studies he suffered severe privations”. By twenty he was enrolled at the Academy of Valenciennes where his talent came to the attention of Alfred-Emilien Count de Nieuwerkerke, the Director General of French Museums, who arranged for a small pension to be awarded to Vély. The income allowed the artist to attend the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, where he studied with Emile Signol. Under Signol’s influence he painted classical as well as religious subjects; but also excelled at portraiture, particularly of beautiful women. He first exhibited at the Salon in 1866 with a Mort d’Abel. In 1868 his entry of the Mater Dolorosa was purchased by the State for the Church of Anzin. In 1869 his Temptation of St. Anthony was again acquired by the State for the Musée de Picardie, Amiens. In the 1870s Vély’s historical and religious works were supplanted by romantic subjects often featuring medieval young maidens contemplating love. Le Puits qui Parle (The Talking Well), shown at the Salon of 1873, was the first major work of this type exhibited by Vély. Acquired by the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., the painting depicts a would-be paramour whispering to a young girl while partially concealed behind a stone wall. The following year in 1874 he exhibited Lucia di Lammermoor and won a third class medal. This painting was also bought by the State for the Museum of Narbonne.[2]

In all likelihood this change of direction was partially inspired by the growing influence and popularity of Pre-Raphaelitism in France from the mid-1860s onwards.[3] Vély further drew upon the tradition of Troubadour paintings which had flourished in France between 1802-1824, with periodic revivals and transformations until at least the 1860s. These works were characterized by highly detailed Gothic or Renaissance interiors, displaying intimately lit figures in relaxed poses, smoothly executed and beautifully rendered. A large number of these paintings featured women in subjects not often previously painted concerning themes of chivalric romance, meant to engage the viewer’s emotions.[4] Le Coeur S’Éveille was the perfect embodiment of both trends, with the choice of red hair for the Princess constituting a particular nod to the Pre-Raphaelites who favored flaming tresses for the majority of their heroines.

The combination of these two aesthetics created something new and striking. With a facile brush and keen sense of color, built on provocative subject matter, Vély dazzled his audience. Also ingenuously, Vély created a reflection of the tableau vivant, here veering away from the Troubadour painters and Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, whose works primarily featured ethereal beings from a distant past. Extremely popular during the period, tableau vivant translates as a living picture and refers to a group of suitably costumed actors or models posed to recreate a scene from history, literature or most often paintings, which blurred the line between the past and present as well as art and reality. Often these scenes were enhanced by props and dramatic lighting.[5] Vély’s sitters can easily be envisioned wearing contemporary dress, walking the streets of Paris, or viewing pictures at the Salon, which granted an immediate affinity to his audience and easy access into this fantasy. Rather than copying medieval garb, the striking lilac satin dress of the young Princess with its smock, loose bodice, wide waist and simple ornamentation derives from the aesthetic dress movement which began with the Pre-Raphaelites and was based on the simpler lines, forms and colors of early medieval art.[6] Further her tiara reflects jewelry patterns of the Belle Époque. Even the act of embroidering, so beautifully emphasized by the dangling needle and blue thread that crisscrosses her smock’s apron, as well as the bright cords that overflow the straw basket on the floor, depict a contemporary pursuit. Revived and made extremely popular by the Arts and Crafts movement, an offshoot of Pre-Raphaelitism, embroidery was regarded as an art form on equal footing to painting or sculpting, as well as a direct link to an idealized past.[7] The Queen, fittingly described by A. Genevay in his review of the 1880 Salon “as a woman in beautiful old age,”[8] is seated on a simple wooden throne and velvet tasseled pillow below a canopy on a tapestry rug covered dais. Exquisite hands, framed by impressionistically rendered lace cuffs, peak out from her black dress and cloak. A simple ring on the middle finger of her right hand is her only ornament. She essentially serves as a foil for her granddaughter, whose beauty without contrast would not be fully realized. The aged tome in the Queen’s lap bent and stained, as it would have been in a nineteenth century antiquarian’s shop, is a further anachronism. In the foreground and background, sheets of music meant to reference Troubadourial songs lay scattered. A tasseled pillow emblazoned with an armorial crest lies at the Queen’s feet near a tapestried curtain. The background is simple wooden paneling. The subject of Le Coeur S’Éveille was only vaguely defined by Vély, its precise source a matter of conjecture. Each critic gave a different interpretation of the scene and this assuredly was the artist’s intent and the work’s appeal. Further in a period gone mad for tableaux vivants; stages, scenery, costumes and wigs could be easily rented. Guides such as Theatricals and Tableaux Vivants For Amateurs proclaimed “For home amusement and we may say cultivation the vivants, can be placed first on the list.”, abounded.[9] Not only striking and the embodiment of current trends, Vély produced a painting that could easily be replicated in a home production. In such an atmosphere that simultaneously embraced familiarity and exoticism Le Coeur S’Éveille was an assured success.

In the 1880 Salon from the 3,957 paintings exhibited only 81 received medals. Four were awarded first class medals, 15 second class, 24 third class and 38 received honorable mention. These figures put into perspective Le Coeur S’Éveille’s remarkable achievement.[10] When the Salon opened on May 1st the response in the press was immediate. The first was George Limbourg on May 13th in La Vie Mondaine who penned a sixteen line poem describing the beautiful reverie of the moment of the awakening.[11] Numerous others followed. On June 16th not to be outdone Le Moniteur D’Issoire published an ode of nineteen lines which began “Suavement saisi et poétiquement rendu Le Coeur s’éveille de M. Vély” (Sweetly captured and poetically rendered Le Coeur s’éveille of M. Vély).[12] From The British Architect and the Northern Engineer, “In design there is much to be learnt from the Salon, thus in Vely’s ‘Le Coeur s’éveille’... the way in which they are arranged is grandly beautiful, and the broad sweep and heavy fall of sixteenth century drapery are arranged with a fine sense of the value of composition”.[13] Oscar Havard in Le Contemporain noted, “Fidèle à son cher seizieme siècle, M. Vely n’a jamais peint d’une brosse plus élégante les belles patriciennes du temps jadis.” (True to his beloved sixteenth century, M. Vely never painted with a brush more elegant the beautiful patricians of yore).[14] Accompanied by F. Moller’s engraving of the work in La Mosaïque the writer U.D. stated, “Deux personnages seulement, c’est peu pour traduire une pensée, mais, quand on sait les mettre en opposition, les faire valoir par le contraste et les souligner l’un par l’autre, on a vraiment le sans artistique. M. Vely a prouvé deux fois qu’il l’a”. (Only two persons, it is little to translate a thought, but when one knows to put them in opposition, one values them through contrast and they emphasize each other. One really sees the artistry. M. Vely has proved twice that he has it.)[15]

Besides F. Moller’s engraving (which was also reproduced in the April 9, 1881 issue of Le Monde Illustré), A. D. Braun reproduced prints of Le Coeur S’Éveille in three different sizes at least until 1896, as reproductions of paintings, especially those who had been awarded prizes at the Salon, were collectibles as well as regarded as perfect holiday or wedding gifts.[16] For those unable to visit the Salon postcards of the most popular works were produced as souvenirs. One example which featured this painting was printed by Stengel & Co. of Dresden.

F. Moller’s engraving of Le Cœur S’Éveille for April 9, 1881 issue of Le Monde Illustré

F. Moller’s engraving of Le Cœur S’Éveille for April 9, 1881 issue of Le Monde Illustré

 
 
Postcard produced by Stengel & Co., Dresden of  Le Cœur S’Éveille

Postcard produced by Stengel & Co., Dresden of  Le Cœur S’Éveille

Sadly Le Coeur S’Éveille would be Vély’s last award at the Salons. On June 10, 1882 the artist suffered an attack of apoplexy at his studio in the Rue de Breteuill, Paris and died at the age of 41.[17] It was a stunning loss in the midst of a brilliant career and his passing was noted around the world. In his numerous obituaries Le Coeur S’Éveille was repeatedly mentioned as one of his most accomplished and important works. The Evening Telegram’s extensive obituary described the painting in lengthy detail, calling it a “truly delicious work”. The piece ended with the telling summation – “M. Vely...was regarded as a very sympathetic man”.[18] In the Salon of 1883 Julie Dupont paid tribute to the artist by executing and exhibiting a porcelain plaque after Le Coeur S’Éveille.[19]

M. Knoedler & Company purchased the painting at the 1880 Salon for the American market.[20] This was a period that saw the rise of the American art museum created at the behest of industrialists and financiers who sought to establish institutions that would rival those of Europe while glorifying and memorializing their own names. European art was regarded as superior to American, and what was particularly sought after were the prize works of the Paris Salons.[21] Knoedler, highly influential at this point, would have eagerly catered to such a demand.

Hercules Louis Dousman II (1848-1886) of St. Louis, Missouri, between 1871-1881 purchased approximately 90 paintings, many of which were acquired from Knoedler. From a wealthy family, his father Hercules Dousman, Sr. had owned vast tracts of land in Wisconsin and also acted as John Jacob Astor’s agent in the Northwestern Fur Company. His father was also credited with the development of the railroad in this region. At the time of his death in 1868, his net worth was recorded as several million. In 1877 his son bought a mansion in St. Louis to which he added a gallery for his art collection, at the time regarded as the finest in St. Louis. J. Thomas Scharf’s 1883 History of Saint Louis City and County noted Dousman’s “aim was to make a collection which should comprise specimens of the best efforts of modern genius. As soon as the collection had approached its present degree of excellence, Mr. Dousman notified all interested in art that the treasures he had gathered were at their service for either enjoyment or study. Artists were especially invited to make use of the opportunity afforded and the Dousman residence came to be daily thronged with visitors”. Scharf further described the Vély as one of the highlights of the collection.[22] Edward Strahan agreed with this assessment in his 1880 The art treasures of America; being the choicest works of art in the public and private collection of North America writing that the Vély “looks very imposing in its central position” and that Dousman “has built a very beautiful picture gallery in connection with his residence, where every picture however large is seen under glass”.[23] At the 1880 St. Louis Exposition and Fair to which Dousman lent Le Coeur S’Éveille, The American Art Review described it as “among the most notable foreign works exhibited.”[24] On the evenings of May 8-9, 1884, Dousman sold his collection of 101 paintings at auction before a packed salesroom at Clinton Hall, Astor Place, New York. Le Coeur S’Éveille was mentioned in the New York Times as one of the stars of the auction and partially reprinted the sale catalogue’s entry where it was described as “one grand and delicious conception”.[25]

The Vély was purchased by Daniel William Powers (1818-1897) of Rochester, New York. A true rag to riches story, Powers was orphaned at a young age and raised on his uncle’s farm in New York. By 18 he worked in a Rochester hardware store receiving only room and board. When he was paid a salary, he reinvested the money into the firm which he eventually purchased outright.[26] By 1850 Powers had acquired enough capital to open his own bank which “came to be recognized as one of the most powerful and influential private institutions in the country”.[27] In 1871 at the cost of $392,000 he built “The Powers Building” in the French Second Empire Style designed by Andrew Jackson Warner. It featured the town’s first hydraulic passenger elevator labeled a “vertical railroad”. He opened the Powers Art Gallery in 1875 and the building became the cultural center of the city. The aim of his gallery was to share “impressive” European art with the general public. He further felt that such important works should be viewed in equally grandiose settings. The collection grew to nearly 1,000 works showcased in 30 rooms, which he frequently redecorated. During its heyday in the 1880s, it was reported that the Powers Art Gallery drew more than 40,000 visitors a year, a figure few other museums in America could match.[28] W. A. Sherwood in an article about Powers for The Canadian Magazine of Politics, Science, Art and Literature described the gallery’s interior, “whilst wandering through the lengthy salons and parlors, with their cosy settees... ascending marble steps.... one’s thoughts are transported to the age of chivalry, and the theme which the poet of fancy was so happy in singing”.[29] In this context it is easy to understand why Powers purchased the Vély, regarded it as one of his favorite works,[30] and placed it in a position of honor near the grand staircase in the central hall. Upon Powers’ death in 1897 his family closed the gallery. An effort to save it was made by the Rochester Art Club who declared “The removal of these famous pictures will be a calamity to Rochester”, a view then taken up by the local press. Although the Common Council and Chamber of Commerce formed committees to study the issue nothing happened and the paintings were sold at auction on January 18-20, 1899 by The American Art Association in New York City.[31]

Looking Through the Portieres to Le Cœur S’Éveille in the Powers Art Gallery. Courtesy of the Rochester Public Library Local History Division

Looking Through the Portieres to Le Cœur S’Éveille in the Powers Art Gallery. Courtesy of the Rochester Public Library Local History Division

 
 
Grand Staircase of the Powers Art Gallery.  Le Cœur S’Éveille is the largest painting to the right of the staircase. Courtesy of the Rochester Public Library Local History Division.

Grand Staircase of the Powers Art Gallery.  Le Cœur S’Éveille is the largest painting to the right of the staircase. Courtesy of the Rochester Public Library Local History Division.

The purchaser of record in the 1899 sale was the prestigious interior decorating firm H. F. Huber & Co. of Manhattan, duly noted in The New York Times and American Art Annual.[32] The real buyer was Charles Fred Dietrich (1836-1927) of New York.[33] Dietrich’s fortune was based on the manufacturing of water gas. He served as the president of the Chesapeake Gas Company of Baltimore, one of the first American companies to be involved in its production and whose activities expanded to buying gas properties throughout the United States accompanied by improved methods for its extraction.[34] In New York he resided in a mansion at 953 Fifth Avenue surrounded by other millionaires’ homes. His name and address were routinely printed in such guides as Palatial Homes in the City of New York and The Dwellers Therein, Arranged for the Convenience of the Passer By.[35] Yet Dietrich must have been a private person, whose reasons for collecting differed radically from those of Dousman and Powers. This is perhaps best expressed by a letter Dietrich wrote on March 27, 1920 to Mitchell Kennerly, the president of Anderson Galleries, prior to his collection being sold the following month. “I have decided to give up my city residence. I have been buying pictures for nearly forty years and only stopped when every inch of wall space in the rooms, halls, and stairs of my city residence were covered about fifteen years ago. I was guided by a desire to obtain what is beautiful in art – not merely works by well-known painters. These pictures have been my joy and pride and are sent to you knowing they will find other owners who will obtain as much pleasure from them as I have”.[36] Describing the highlights of the Dietrich sale, the American Art News called the Vély “a large and fine upright”.[37] After the sale Dietrich lived at his 1,600 acre estate in Millbrook, New York, where he also owned the gas plant which furnished most of the energy for the town.

Le Coeur S’Éveille was purchased at the Dietrich sale by a Dr. Muller.[38] At the sale he also purchased two Tiepolos (lots 108 and 109) one of Tarquin and Lucretia now in the Staatsgalerie, Augsburg and the other Vestals Making Offerings to Juno in the High Museum, Atlanta.[39] Nothing else is known about Muller and without a first name or initial, further identification can only be conjecture, but in all likelihood he was an art dealer.

The Vély was next owned by Hulett Clinton Merritt (1872-1956) of Pasadena, California. Merritt’s grandfather was one of the Founding Fathers of Duluth, Minnesota, as well as the original owner of 160 acres which became the center of its business district. Along with his father and uncles, Merritt bankrolled and built the Duluth, Missabe and Northern Railway in order to connect what was at that time the world’s largest deposit of iron ore in northern Minnesota to Lake Superior. Further he was reported as the largest stockholder of the U.S. Steel Corporation. At its founding in 1901 U.S. Steel had a working capital of almost $1,750,000,000, and was the most powerful corporation in the world. In 1905 Merritt built an Italian Renaissance-style villa with 7½ acres of gardens surrounded by 11 additional acres along what was called “Millionaire’s Row” in Pasadena, California. Its entrance was a long terraced staircase bordered by 60 feet tall Cypress trees. An avid collector; he filled the house with art, antique furniture and oriental rugs.[40] Most famously the mansion’s exterior was used in the opening sequence of The Millionaire, a popular American television show that aired from 1955-1960, which had the unlikely plot of a billionaire anonymously giving away one million dollars to a needy individual. Shortly after Merritt’s death in 1956, the contents of the house were sold at auction in Beverly Hills. At the sale the Vély was acquired by a private collector from South Pasadena who kept it until 2014.

Always popular in America, besides the Corcoran, paintings by Vély were in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago by 1898, the St. Louis Museum of Fine Arts by 1901, and the Metropolitan Museum, New York by 1907. As in Le Coeur S’Éveille, all featured quasi-medieval subjects that offered a visual gateway into a romanticized past. Painted in a period characterized by economic boom, increasing industrialization and an uncertain future, their appeal would have been irresistible. One has only to look at the successive list of titans who owned Le Coeur S’Éveille to comprehend its lasting allure, undiminished by the progressive centuries. Previously only illustrated in the pertinent literature by engravings or prepatory drawings and never fully documented, we delight in presenting Vély’s masterpiece and legacy.

 


[1] The given title of the painting at the Salon was Le Coeur S’Éveille. Alternative titles in the ensuing literature include Le Reveil du Coeur, Awakening of the Heart, When the Heart Awakens, The Heart’s Awakening, Heart Awakened, Wenn das Herz Erwacht, Lorsque le Coeur S’éveille, The Heart Awakes, and Coeur qui s’éveille.

[2] Biographical information taken from The Evening Telegram, op. cit., p. 4; Louis Viardot, op. cit., p. 37; Abel Patoux, op. cit., pp. 69, 70, 86, 89; and E. Bénézit, op. cit., p. 433.

[3] Susan P. Casteras, “Symbolist Debts to Pre-Raphaelitism” in Worldwide Pre-Raphaelitism; Critical Theory, Popular Culture, Audiovisual Media, State University of New York Press, Albany, 2005, p. 121.

[4] Marie-Claude Chaudonneret, “The Genre Anecdotique, or The Evocation of a Dream-Like Past” in Romance & Chivalry, exhibition catalog, New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, June 23-August 25, 1996, pp. 61, 65; and Nadia Tscherny, “Nostalgia and Nationalism: Subjects from French History and the Lives of Kings” in Romance & Chivalry, op. cit. pp. 80, 93.

[5] Deborah Levitt, “Living Pictures: from Tableaux Vivant to Puppets and Para-Selves” in Acting and Performance in Moving Image Culture, Translation Publishers, Rutgers University, N.J., 2012, pp. 179-180; and Robert Hirsch, Seizing the Light: A History of Photography, Content Technologies, Inc., 2014, unpaginated.

[6] Maura Spiegel, “Adornment in the Afterlife of Victorian Fashion” in Fashion in Film, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana, 2014, p. 181.

[7] Elizabeth Willis, Radical Vernacular/ Lorine Niedecker and the Poetics of the Place, University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, 2008, p. 221.

[8] A. Genevay, op. cit., p. 334.

[9] Charles Harrison, Theatricals and Tableaux Vivants for Amateurs, L. Upcott Gill, London, 1882, p. 113.

[10]  Pierre Sanchez and Xavier Seydoux, Les Catalogues des Salons des Beaux-Arts, volume 13, op. cit., unpaginated.

[11]  George Limbourg, op. cit., p. 7.

[12]  Le Moniteur D’Issoire, op. cit., p. 1.

[13]  The British Architect and Northern Engineer, op. cit. pp. 292-293.

[14]  Oscar Harvard, op. cit., p. 171.

[15]  La Mosaïque, op. cit., p. 161.

[16]  The Nation, volume XLVII, The Evening Post Publishing Company, New York, 1888, p. 484 - an advertisement “Holiday and Wedding Presents that are sure to please. High-class etchings – 5 of which have won prizes at the Paris Salon”.

[17]  The Architect, op. cit., p. 39; and “Obituary” in The Artist and Journal of Home Culture, volume III, no. 26, February 1, 1882, p. 46.

[18]  The Evening Telegram, op. cit. p. 4.

[19]  Salon de 1883, op. cit., p. 252; and Pierre Sanchez, op. cit., c. 2005, p. 511.

[20]  Patoux, op. cit., p. 89.

[21]  Daniel Timothy Lenehan, Fashioning Taste: Earl Shinn, Art Criticism and National Identity in Gilded Age America, Ph. D. dissertation, Haverford, Pennsylvania, 2005, pp. 59-60, 63, 65.

[22]  J. Thomas Scharf, op. cit., pp. 1,619-1,620; and Penny Lenzendorf (Program Assistant at the Villa Louis Historical Site, Wisconsin Historical Society) “Catalogue Note” in Sotheby’s, New York, April 18, 2008, lot 68 (For Alexandre Cabanel, Eve After the Fall, previously owned by Dousman)

[23]  Edward Strahan, op. cit., pp. 62-63.

[24]  The American Art Review, 1881, op. cit., p. 40.

[25]  The New York Times, op. cit., p. 2.

[26]  Richard H. Love, “Building Rochester’s Infrastructure of Fine Art (1861-1876)” in Carl W. Peters, University of Rochester Press, Rochester, N. Y., 1999, p. 60.

[27]  The Industries of the city of Rochester, op. cit., p. 3.

[28]  Richard H. Love, op. cit., pp. 61-64; and Blake McKelvey, Rochester History, volume XVII, no. 2, April, 1955, p. 7.

[29]  W.A. Sherwood, op. cit., p. 472.

[30]  The Industries of the city of Rochester, op. cit., p. 83.

[31]  Blake McKelvey, op. cit., p.13.

[32]  New York Times, January 21, 1899, p. 2; and American Art Annual, 1899, op. cit., p. 55.

[33]  Anderson Galleries, April 8-9, 1920, op. cit., p. 59.

[34]  The Gas Age, volume XXXIII, Progressive Age Publishing Co., New York, February 16, 1914, p.155.

[35]  Isabel Hamilton, Palatial Homes in the City of New York and the Dwellers Therein, Arranged for the Convenience of the Passer By, New York, 1910, p. 21, no. 963.

[36]  American Art News, March 27, 1920, op. cit., p. 6.

[37]  American Art News, April 17, 1920, op. cit., p. 9.

[38]  American Art Annual, 1920, op. cit., p. 336.

[39]  Eric M. Zafran, “Giovanni Battista Tiepolo” in European Art in the High Museum, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia, 1984, p. 66; and William L. Barcham, “Secular Commissions” in Giambattista Tiepolo 1696-1770, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1996, p. 166, no. 21d.

[40]  “H. C. Merritt” in Notables of the West, volume II, International News Service, New York, 1915, p. 451; Porter Garnett, Stately Homes of California, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1915; and “Pasadena’s Secret Garden Delights Visitors” in Los Angeles Times, June 13, 2002.

Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts

Tel: (212) 517-3643            Email: gallery@steigrad.com