The Huntington murals at the Yale University Art Gallery

1 In his will of 1897, Collis Huntington bequeathed the ownership of the mansion to Yale University, with life interest in the property to Arabella and then Archer. "After her death, Archer declined to take up his life interest; thus, it was necessary quickly to carry out Collis's donations"; see Shelley M. Bennett, The Art of Wealth: The Huntingtons in the Gilded Age (Huntington Library Press, San Marino, Calif., forthcoming Spring 2013). Tiffany and Company now occupies the former Huntington house site.  2 "French Eighteenth Century Furniture," Bulletin of the Associates in Fine Arts at Yale University, December 1926, pp. 35-40.  3 Conservation of the Huntington/Yale murals was made possible by a grant from the Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation.  4 Russell Sturgis, "A Review of the Work of George B. Post," Great American Architects Series, no. 4, Architectural Record (June 1898), p. 83.  5 Arabella has been thought to have been born in Richmond, Virginia, but Caroline [Carrie] Campbell, Arabella's longtime companion, wrote to Albert Crutcher of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher in February 1929 that she was born "near Union Springs, Alabama" (Archer M. Huntington 1929 letters, Hispanic Society of America, New York; as cited in Bennett, The Art of Wealth: The Huntingtons in the Gilded Age). According to Bennett, Arabella was born June 1, 1850, and died September 14, 1924. "Very little is known about her early years. She was the third of five children of Catherine Simms Maddox and Richard Milton Yarrington, a machinist. Arabella's middle name, Duvall, was the maiden name of her father's mother" (Bennett, "The Mysterious Arabella D. Huntington and her Passion for Collecting," in Power Underestimated: American Women Art Collectors, ed. Inge Reist and Rosella Mamoli Zorzi [Marsilio, Venice, 2011], p. 104).  6  James T. Maher, who undertook painstaking research to establish the legitimacy of Arabella's relationship to Worsham concludes that they were never married; see his The Twilight of Splendor: Chronicles of the Age of American Palaces (Little Brown, Boston, 1975), pp. 254-257. Shelley Bennett, too, calls Huntington her first husband and asserts that Arabella "fabricated a marriage to John M. Worsham before the birth of her son, Archer, in 1870" ("The Mysterious Arabella D. Huntington and her Passion for Collecting," pp. 104-105).  7 The bedroom and dressing room are now, respectively, in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Moorish smoking room is at the Brooklyn Museum. Shelley Bennett concluded that even before Arabella began to work with George B. Post on the Huntington mansion, she bought and furnished eight residences, seven in New York and one in San Francisco. After Collis's death, when she was declared the richest woman in America, she successively bought and furnished three houses in Paris. After her marriage to Henry H. Huntington in 1913, at age sixty-three, she worked with him and Joseph Duveen on the furnishing of what is today the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. See Shelley M. Bennett, "Henry and Arabella Huntington: The Staging of Eighteenth-Century French Art by Twentieth-Century Americans," in French Art of the Eighteenth-Century at the Huntington (Yale University Press, New Haven, Conn., 2008), pp. 1-27.  8 The Cornelius Vanderbilt II mansion at 1 West Fifty-Seventh Street was built by Post between 1879 and 1882, and enlarged by Post and Richard Morris Hunt in 1892. It was demolished in 1927, a year after the Huntington mansion came down. 
9 Sturgis, "A Review of the Work of George B. Post," p. 83.  10 H. Siddons Mowbray Mural Painter 1858-1928 (privately printed by Florence Millard Mowbray, 1928), p. 56.  11 For information on the hiring of the Huntington muralists see Bennett, The Art of Wealth: The Huntingtons in the Gilded Age, chap. 2. I remain grateful to Bennett for sharing this important information, which she uncovered in the Collis P. Huntington archives at Syracuse University, microfilm series I, reel 50.  12 The building had one double-domed entrance at each corner. Two painters were assigned to each entryway: J. Alden Weir and Robert Reid; Edward Simmons and Kenyon Cox; J. Carroll Beckwith and Walter Shirlaw; Charles S. Reinhart and Edwin Blashfield. In addition there were two tympana in both the south and north pavilions (two entryways positioned midway along the building's long sides). Gari Melchers and Walter MacEwen were responsible for the decoration of the south pavilion; Francis Davis Millet and Lawrence Earle, for the north. My thanks to Professor Bailey Van Hook for her help in tracking down this information.  13 Archer wrote to Henry E. Huntington (his cousin and his mother's second husband): "Yale University decided that they would like to place the White room in their Museum and I gave them the whole of its woodwork decorations and the ceiling paintings together with the furniture to make it a complete unit," Archer Huntington, Letters, October 26, 1926, Hispanic Society of America, New York.  14 For the title, see Paintings and Studio Property of the late Francis Lathrop of New York City, Anderson Galleries, New York, April 4-6, 1911, Lot 17. 
15 Lathrop's role in supervising the interior decoration of the Huntington mansion is detailed in Isabelle Hyman, "The Huntington Mansion in New York: Economics of Architecture and Decoration in the 1890s," Courier/Syracuse University Library Associates, vol. 25, no. 2 (Fall 1990), pp. 3-29.  16 "American Art," Art Year Book (Boston, 1884), n. p. 
17 Lathrop also formed a lasting attachment to the Huntington family. He vacationed with them in the Adirondacks, attended Collis's funeral in 1900, and was a member of the board of the Hispanic Society, which Archer formed in 1904 and where Lathrop painted a frieze of portrait medallions c. 1906.  18 For further information on Vedder's Huntington mural see Ann Jensen Adams, "Elihu Vedder at Yale: a Ceiling for Collis P. Huntington," 1976, Yale University Art Gallery archives; and Murray, "The Art of Decoration," pp. 205-210.

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by Émile Jacques Ruhlmann (1879-1933), 1926. Macassar ebony, amaranth, and ivory. Metropolitan Museum of Art. By Cynthia Drayton

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