Lot 433
  • 433


80,000 - 120,000 USD
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  • Vicente Palmaroli y González
  • In the Studio 
  • signed V. Palmaroli (lower right)
  • oil on panel 
  • 28 1/4 by 36 1/8 in.
  • 72 by 92 cm


William Henry Vanderbilt, New York
George Washington Vanderbilt II, New York (by descent from the above, his father)
Brigadier General Cornelius Vanderbilt, New York (by descent from the above, his uncle, and sold, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, April 18-19, 1945, lot 165, illustrated) 
The de Koenigsberg Collection, Rio de Janiero
Sale: Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, October 5, 1950, lot 40, illustrated
Paul Moro, Inc., New York
Private Collection (acquired from the above in 1962) 
Thence by descent (until at least 2005)


The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (extended loan of the William H. Vanderbilt Collection, circa 1902-1907)


Edward Strahan, ed., The Art Treasures of America, Philadelphia, [1879-1882], facsimile edition, 1977, vol. III, p. 108 
Edward Strahan, Mr. Vanderbilt's House and Collection, Boston, 1883-84, section VI, p. 54, illustrated (in a black and white photograph of the picture gallery) 
Collection of W.H. Vanderbilt, 640 Fifth Ave., New York, 1884, p. 47, no. 88 


The following condition report was kindly provided by Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.: This work on a heavy panel is in good condition. The panel is original made from two pieces of wood joined horizontally though the top of the purple wall hanging on the left side. The join is only interrupted in the center of the left side. The painting seems to be dirty and could be cleaned. Retouches would be removed during cleaning. These are in the floor in a few spots around the signature beneath the easel in the far right, beneath the fallen flowers in the lower center, in a spot of two on the edge of the fur rug, and along the bottom edge in the lower left corner. Elsewhere, some retouches are visible under ultraviolet light in the hair of the pianist, and around the parasol held by the reclining woman. There are a few retouches around the edges that are quite broad. The condition itself seems to be very good, but many of the retouches seem to be cosmetic and could be improved. The work could be hung as is, but it would respond well to cleaning and more accurate retouching.
"This lot is offered for sale subject to Sotheby's Conditions of Business, which are available on request and printed in Sotheby's sale catalogues. The independent reports contained in this document are provided for prospective bidders' information only and without warranty by Sotheby's or the Seller."

Catalogue Note

In Vicente Palmaroli y González’s In the Studio, a group of five women, dressed in embroidered and patterned shawls, relax in an Aladdin’s cave of cultured pleasures. The pianist plays a selection from Verdi’s Nabucco, the composer's first successful opera, which premiered in 1842. The eclectic contents of this artist’s studio include a suit of armor, dramatically displayed in front of a length of crimson fabric, a bear skin rug, walls lined with Brussels tapestries, an enormous Oushak medallion carpet from West Anatolia with a design dating to the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century, and a dramatically foreshortened, half-completed painting at far right, precariously leaning next to another canvas mounted on an easel with an artist’s palette below. This opulent mix of Asian, Spanish, and baroque decoration is both aspirational and reflective of the collecting habits of Palmaroli’s patrons in the 1870s and 1880s.

It is fitting that this seductive picture was purchased by William Henry Vanderbilt (1821-1885), eldest son of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, who built a vast collection during his lifetime totaling over 200 paintings. In the Studio hung in the private galleries of his sumptuous New York home. Built in 1880, the massive home, filled with elegant furnishings and hung from ceiling to floor with Vanderbilt’s impressive collection of art, occupied the entirety of Fifth Avenue between 51st and 52nd Street, next to St Patrick’s Cathedral (fig. 1).

On his death in 1885, 640 Fifth Avenue and its lavishly hung galleries passed to George Washington Vanderbilt II, William’s youngest child, who is best remembered as the master of Biltmore, the 250 room French Renaissance chateau in the Blue Ridge Mountains and the largest domestic dwelling ever built. While George was busy building Biltmore in North Carolina, 640 Fifth Avenue stood empty, and the majority of the collection was transferred to The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  

In 1905, fellow railroad magnate Henry Clay Frick began a ten year lease of the empty home, about which he had once aspirationally said “It is all I shall ever want.” Upon moving in, Frick requested that George return the art collection - including the present lot - to the home’s empty galleries, a request that was adamantly denied, as George remarked in a letter “it is a pleasure to me to feel that my father’s collection is on view to the public at all times and performing its educative function” (George Vanderbilt to Henry Clay Frick, October 20, 1905, as quoted in Melanie Linn Gutowksi, “Aspiration and Obsession: Henry Clay Frick and the W.H. Vanderbilt House and Collection,” Nineteenth Century Magazine, May 2012, p. 26-30). Despite multiple attempts, George was equally adamant that he would not sell 640 Fifth Avenue to Frick. George’s sudden death in 1914 meant that the house passed to his nephew, Brigadier General Cornelius Vanderbilt III, and Frick vacated to his newly built home at 70th Street and Fifth Avenue.

The sale of 640 Fifth Avenue in 1940 to the William Waldorf Astor estate and the death of Brigadier Vanderbilt in 1942 led to the 1945 sale of the great art collection created by William Henry Vanderbilt and passed through three generations of the family. Other lots from the April sale at Parke-Bernet’s New York galleries included Theodore Rousseau’s The Gorges d’Apremont (Forest of Fontainebleau) (lot 52; now Middlebury College Museum of Art, Vermont); Ludwig Knaus’ Dance under the Linden Tree (lot 66; now Milwaukee Art Museum); and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot’s Orpheus Lamenting Eurydice (lot 136; now Kimbell Museum of Art, Dallas).