This lot is exempt from Sales Tax.
PROPERTY OF THE HISPANIC SOCIETY OF AMERICA, DEACCESSIONED BY ORDER OF THE TRUSTEES TO BENEFIT THE ACQUISITIONS FUND
LOTS 2, 3, 4, 5
In 1904 Archer Milton Huntington (1870-1955; fig. 1) founded the Hispanic Society of America with twenty-three paintings, most of which were sixteenth and seventeenth century Spanish portraits. Four years later Huntington's collection, including coins, medals, books and decorative arts, was opened to the public on Audubon Terrace in upper Manhattan (fig. 2). Among the highlights was Francisco de Goya y Lucientes's coveted Duchess of Alba, which Huntington had acquired from Gimpel and Wildenstein in Paris for the then substantial sum of $35,000. The Society has since evolved into one of the world's premier centers for Hispanic research, being aptly described by art historian Jonathan Brown as 'an encyclopedic repository of Spanish visual and literary culture' (The Hispanic Society of America: Tesoros, New York, 2000, p. 69).
Huntington, one of America's most privileged heirs, devoted his life and a significant part of the family fortune to the establishment of a 'Spanish Museum'. His step-father, Collis P. Huntington, founder of the Central Pacific Railroad and the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Companies, died in 1900, leaving Archer $150 million. Huntington's taste for all things Spanish took root in 1882 during his first trip to Europe, where, at the mere age of twelve, he made his first acquisition of 'seven small pieces of copper' in Spain. Two years later he began formal tutoring in Spanish literature and culture, and by 1891 he had experienced Hispanic culture at firsthand in Mexico and Cuba. In 1892 he made a second trip to Spain and discovered Velázquez, whom he described in his journal as 'stunning' and 'amazing'. Armed with proper training, education, and cultural exposure, Huntington embarked upon a long and successful career as a collector, a vocation he once described as 'the pathway which those demented souls who collect follow so assiduously'.
Huntington soon joined the ranks of a select group of 'demented souls' eager to amass the world's finest examples of European art in fin-de-siècle America. Benefiting from a recent economic boom, an absence of income tax and the establishment of trusts, American magnates such as J. Pierpont Morgan, Henry Clay Frick, Isabella Stewart Gardner and Harry Havemeyer turned to art as an expression of their newfound success. Although on equal financial footing with America's top players, Huntington the collector was an anomaly, passing up a lucrative career in the family business for the singular pursuit of acquiring art.
His master plan was privately announced in 1890 in a letter to his mother, Arabella: 'My collecting has always had for a background...a museum'. For his museum Huntington would acquire only works of art outside of Spain, a belief that was never upheld by his contemporaries:
I buy no pictures in Spain, having that foolish sentimental feeling
for to Spain I do not go as a plunderer. I will get my pictures, outside.
As a natural consequence of Huntington's respect for Spanish culture, he soon developed an academic mastery of Hispanic culture, which is reflected in his translation and critical edition of the medieval epic, The Poem of the Cid.
Archer's knowledge of the field distinguished him from his fellow collectors of Spanish art, namely Morgan, Frick and Arabella Huntington. He was certainly less reliant in his acquisitions on, in particular, Joseph Duveen, whom Archer dubbed 'the chief charmer of the picture business'. Huntington proudly purchased only one painting from Duveen for the Society in 1909, Velázquez's Portrait of a Little Girl, a joint acquisition with Arabella for $100,000.
Upholding Huntington's commitment to Spanish art and culture, Christie's offers three pictures acquired for the Hispanic Society of America but recently re-attributed to artists from other schools. In 1911 Huntington acquired lot 5 - Luigi Miradori's Portrait of an Olivetan priest, and a member of the Pueroni family through Ehrich Galleries in New York as a 'Portrait of a Dominican Monk by Francisco de Zurbarán' and lot 2 - Saint Peter (?); and Saint Agnes at Hôtel Drouot, Paris, as 'École Espagnole, XVème siècle', both of which are now attributed to the leading early Renaissance master, Spinello Aretino. In 1912 Huntington also purchased the Portrait of an art dealer, identified as François Langlois (lot 4) through Ehrich Galleries as a 'Self-portrait by José Antolínez'. The sitter has since been identified as François Langlois (1588-1647), the prominent art dealer, engraver, publisher and amateur musician who also sat to Sir Anthony van Dyck (jointly National Gallery, London; and Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham).
Since Archer Huntington's death in 1955 the Hispanic Society of America has become the country's major resource for aficionados of Spanish culture. And while many flock to upper Manhattan to stand before Goya's celebrated Duchess of Alba, the majority of its visitors stay on and take in the lifelong efforts of one of America's earliest collectors, scholars and devotees of Hispanic heritage.