European Paintings Owned by Frank Sinatra, Louis Comfort Tiffany & More American Collectors

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19th Century European masterpieces have graced the walls of the grandest Fifth Avenue mansions, opulent vaudeville theaters and expansive country estates. With the turn of the century many of the greatest collections were sold, their works untraced for generations until appearing at auction. Sotheby’s European Art sale will feature several works that were once part of distinguished American collections, ranging from those of Gilded Age business tycoons to legendary celebrities. Click ahead to discover these paintings and the remarkable homes where they once hung. 

European Art
22 May | New York

European Paintings Owned by Frank Sinatra, Louis Comfort Tiffany & More American Collectors

  • Joaquín Sorolla, Pavilion of Charles V, Alcázar of Seville. Estimate $200,000–300,000.
    The first owner of Pavilion of Charles V, Alcázar of Seville was celebrated glass designer, Louis Comfort Tiffany. Tiffany acquired this work at the 1909 exhibition of Sorolla’s paintings at the Hispanic Society of America in New York. The Moorish architecture in Sorolla’s painting is reminiscent of Tiffany’s now destroyed estate of Laurelton Hall on Long Island.   

    European Art

    22 May | New York

  • The Collection of Louis Comfort Tiffany
    (Left) David Aronow, Front façade of Laurelton Hall (now demolished), Oyster Bay, Long Island  (Right) The Moorish-style patio of Laurelton hall.  

    The portrait depicted in the interior shown on the right is Joaquín Sorolla’s Portrait of Louis Comfort Tiffany (1911, Hispanic Society of America, New York), which was painted in the lush garden of his estate. 

    European Art

    22 May | New York

  • Albert Edelfelt, 
Au jardin. Estimate
$250,000–350,000.
    Au jardin once belonged to Edward Franklin Albee II (1857-1930), the famous vaudevillian and grandfather of playwright Edward Franklin Albee III. With his partner Benjamin Franklin Keith, Albee built the Keith-Albee theater circuit, which dominated the American entertainment industry during the early 20th century. Many paintings in Albee’s impressive 19th-century art collection, which included works by William Bouguereau and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, were displayed in the lobbies of his theaters. Au jardin hung in the Palace Theater in Columbus, Ohio (built in 1926). 

    European Art

    22 May | New York

  • The Collection of Edward Franklin Albee II
    (Left) The front façade of the Palace Theatre, Columbus, Ohio, which opened in 1926 as a vaudeville and movie theater. (Right) The grand lobby of the Palace Theatre, where Au jardin would have hung.  

    Paintings adorned the walls of the lobby, and a New York Herald Tribune journalist once explained: “Patrons of Albee-run theaters got double their money’s worth of enjoyment. For the cost of a single ticket to the ‘acts’ on the stage they received also a show in the lobby” (Carlyle Burrows, “Paintings Collected by Theater Man Show Popular Turn-of-Century Style," New York Herald Tribune, June 21, 1959).     

    European Art

    22 May | New York

  • Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, La gelée blanche à Auvers-sur-Oise. Estimate
 $80,000–120,000.
    La gelée blanche à Auvers-sur-Oise was formerly in the personal collection of Frank Sinatra. This work was one of twelve paintings from Sinatra’s collection brought to auction at Sotheby’s London during the summer of 1977.   

    European Art

    22 May | New York

  • The Collection of Frank Sinatra
    Frank Sinatra showing some of the paintings from his personal art collection at his Palm Springs home in California. Photo By John Dominis/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images.  

    In anticipation of this closely watched event, The Guardian announced, “Nice Work If You Can Get It, Frank Sinatra: Sotheby’s are selling 12 Impressionist and modern pictures owned by the Old Master. They […] include works by Corot, Monet and Boudin” (The Guardian, June 25, 1977, p. 9). 

    European Art
    22 May | New York

  • William Bouguereau,
L’agneau nouveau-né. Estimate $1,500,000–2,000,000.
    The earliest private owner of L’agneau nouveau-né was the self-made New York millionaire Alexander Turney Stewart. From humble beginnings in a working class Irish family, Stewart arrived in America at the age of twenty and used a small inheritance from his grandfather to open a store selling Irish linen and lace, which would later grow into the world’s largest retail enterprise. The art collection he built with his wife Cornelia was one of the greatest of his time.   

    European Art
    22 May | New York

  • The Collection of Alexander Turney Stewart & Cornelia M. Stewart
    (Left) The exterior of the Stewart’s grand home at 34th Street and 5th Avenue in New York, a fifty-five-room mansion. (Right) Cornelia M. Stewart’s reception room.  

    The Bouguereau painting is shown hanging on the left wall. An 1869 publication of Harper’s Weekly wrote of the Stewart’s home, “the building, with scarcely an alteration in the arrangement of its rooms, could be transformed into a magnificent art gallery. It almost astonishes us to hear the architect speak of this as a reception room, of that as a breakfast room, and of another as a parlor. The beautiful wardrobe and bathrooms are the only portions of the house which distinctively suggest the idea of a private residence.” (Harper’s Weekly, August 14, 1869). 

    European Art

    22 May | New York

  • Hugues Merle, Hamlet and Ophelia.
Estimate $250,000–350,000
    Hugues Merle’s Hamlet and Ophelia also hung in Mrs. Cornelia M. Stewart’s reception room (see previous slide) together with William Bouguereau’s L’agneau nouveau-né. The works are now being reunited for the first time since 1887. Hamlet and Ophelia was next bought by Hazen S. Pingree (1840–1901), the owner of Pingree and Smith, a million-dollar shoe company, and the eventual Mayor of Detroit and Governor of Michigan. Pingree was known for his political achievements and his art collection. 




    European Art

    22 May | New York

  • The Collection of Hazen S. Pingree
    Interior of Hazen S. Pingree house. Photograph Courtesy of the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library.  

    Hamlet and Ophelia
    can be seen hanging on the far wall in Pingree’s drawing room. In 1898, the Detroit Free Press visited Pingree’s home and described the large drawing room as being “artistically filled,” for it contained Louis XV style furniture trimmed with ivory and gold, marble sculptures, an onyx-adorned fireplace and other masterpieces by 19th-century artists such as William Bouguereau (Detroit Free Press, 1898, p. 27).

    European Art

    22 May | New York


  • William Bouguereau,
Portrait de jeune fille. Estimate
$125,000–175,000.
    One of the 19th-century owners of the present lot was John William Sterling (1844–1918), founding partner of New York’s Shearman & Sterling LLP which represented Jay Gould, Henry Ford and Standard Oil among other powerful clients. Sterling’s townhouse at 912 Fifth Avenue boasted both an extensive private law library and art collection. Upon his death more than $15 million (more than $200 million today) was bequeathed to his alma mater Yale University.   

    European Art

    22 May | New York

  • The Collection of John William Sterling
    Detroit Publishing Co., A Fifth Avenue Stage, New York, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

    This is one of the few known photographs of Stewart’s townhouse, which can be seen in this photo behind and to the left of the man on the horse. Sterling was remembered as “among that considerable number of men of great wealth and achievements who expended a great deal of money in securing a good collection…. He believed this intimate communion with his pictures greatly refreshed his mind, took him into another world where only peace and happiness prevailed” (“Holland’s Letter,” The Wall Street Journal, January 24, 1919, p. 2). 

    European Art

    22 May | New York

  • Daniel Ridgway-Knight,
The Meadows in May. Estimate $40,000–60,000.
    The Meadows in May was formerly owned by William S. Kimball of Rochester, New York, who made his great fortune in tobacco. 

    European Art

    22 May | New York

  • The Collection of William S. Kimball
    The exterior of Kimball’s home.  

    Kimball’s house was locally known as “Kimball’s Castle,” a replica of a Swiss chalet that was one of only two in the world designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany (see slide 1). The home boasted 30 rooms and an art gallery. 

    European Art

    22 May | New York

  • Émile Renouf
, Un coup de main (The Helping Hand). Estimate
$300,000–500,000.
    One of the earliest owners of Un coup de main (The Helping Hand) was George Ingraham Seney of Brooklyn, New York (1826–1893), the president of the Metropolitan Bank of New York and a great financier of railroads. Seney was famous for his massive art collection, a large part of which was auctioned in 1885. The Helping Hand was acquired during this sale by The Corcoran Gallery of Art, where it hung for over 100 years and became a beloved American icon. 

    European Art

    22 May | New York

  • The Collection of George Ingraham Seney
    Seney House, circa 1915, Courtesy Eugene L. Armbruster photographs and scrapbooks; Brooklyn Historical Society. 

    The Helping Hand
    hung at George Ingraham Seney’s home at 4 Montague Terrace, Brooklyn Heights. Now destroyed, the house was described as “one of the finest houses in Brooklyn” with “one of the finest collections of paintings ever gathered together in this country” (Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Brooklyn, New York, April 8, 1893, p. 5). 




    European Art

    22 May | New York

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