The painter of moonlit vegetable and fish markets, Petrus van Schendel has captured the attention of American art collectors since the mid-19th Century. Not only was he favorably reviewed in contemporary news articles and praised as a master of the century, but art advisors such as Lucas and Avery made sure that collectors like W.H. Vanderbilt, A.T. Stewart, William Walters and Henry C. Gibson had the best works by him in their collections.
The Night Market, a prime example of van Schendel's most celebrated scene, was purchased by the American dry-goods tycoon A.T. Stewart. By the year 1862, it is said that Stewart's income had reached an astounding two million dollars a year. With over 200 paintings and more than a dozen marble sculptures, the art collection of this brilliant man was as impressive as his merchant empire. Other masterpieces in Stewart's collection included Gérôme's masterpiece Pollice Verso and Circus Maximus as well as Bouguereau's Return from the Harvest.
The brilliance of Stewart and hence, the success of his business, were based on his inventions in the field of customer service. Concepts such as 'free entrance' - being able to browse in a store without the monitoring of a shopkeeper - 'mail order sales', 'one retail price for all' were introduced to America by Stewart. Stewart's greatest act of charity was his purchase of the Hempstead Plains on Long Island where Garden City, a self-sufficient city for the lower income group, would be built.