In each city Roberta immersed herself in classes and local arts organizations. She met Rishel at a birthday party in Hartford for Peter C. Sutton, then director of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. In Manhattan, studies at New York University's Institute of Fine Arts led to friendships with Jonathan Brown and Edward J. Sullivan, noted scholars of Spanish and Latin American art. The Hubers underwrite the institute's Colloquium on Spanish and Latin American Art and Visual Culture. Additionally, Roberta is an advisor to the Hispanic Society of America. Such alliances have helped the couple develop expertise in a field where specialist dealers are few.
In 2003 the Hubers and their Portuguese-speaking parrot, Rosa, settled into life in a renovated Manhattan brownstone. Exuberantly furnished with jewel-toned oriental rugs and plush nineteenth-century seating furniture, the quarters accommodate amply proportioned paintings and sculpture. Grapevines drape a cloistered patio, a daily reminder of the family's Chilean vineyard, now managed by their second son, Alex.
These are massive, ambitious things," Rishel says of the collection, citing the nearly seven-by-five-foot oil on canvas portrait of Spanish King Luis I on horseback, possibly painted in Cuzco, Peru, around 1724 (Fig. 4), "but they are also very human." Two eighteenth-century Bolivian paintings, Rest on the Flight into Egypt (Fig. 5) and The House at Nazareth, illustrate a distinctly South American fondness for scenes depicting the holy family engaged in cozy domestic pastimes."We surrounded ourselves with pieces with which we wanted to live. The collection-it was years before we thought of it that way-grew naturally over time," says Richard.
"Through travel, we became intrigued with the history of South America, which only deepened our interest in the art," Roberta explains. Silver mined in Potosí (now in Bolivia), the largest city in the Western Hemisphere in the first half of the seventeenth century, fueled an artistic explosion that spread from the Andes to Spain. In the Altiplano it produced paintings that mingled European precedent, often transmitted via Flemish prints, with pre-conquest Andean traditions. "What we might perceive as naive charm is often a translation of pre-Hispanic forms, colors, and patterns to Spanish subjects and scenes," says Edward Sullivan, professor of art history at New York University.