Keno auction a success with mix of Native American, fine art

Navajo chief’s blanket. Keno Auctions image.

Navajo chief’s blanket. Keno Auctions image.

Navajo chief’s blanket. Keno Auctions image.

NEW YORK – Keno Auctions held its fall sale of Important Modern, Traditional, Native American, and Decorative Art on Oct. 30. The top lot was an E. Howard & Co. Number 46 Astronomical Regulator Clock, which descended in the same family since it was purchased at a Georgia auction in 1919. Two phone bidders drove the price up to $162,500.

“These clocks were rare then and they are rare now. This one is doubly rare because of its provenance and condition,” said Leigh Keno, president of Keno Auctions.

LiveAuctioneers.com provided Internet live bidding.

“Overall, it was a great sale. There was a diverse group of objects offered, and we had bidders from all around the world via the Internet and telephone bidding. Registered Internet bidders from over 25 countries and extremely active telephone bidding are witness to the excitement generated by the sale. We were very pleased with the results,” said Keno. The sale total was $807,000.

Several of the objects were consigned from the Frederic Remington Museum of Ogdensburg, N.Y., including a collection of Native American items that were collected in the late 19th century. All of the objects attracted spirited bidding from multiple bidders. A Third Phase Navajo cochineal dyed chief’s blanket brought $35,000, a group of three early blankets took in $33,750, and a Crow gun scabbard circa 1880 was hammered down at $10,625.

About these objects, Keno said, “the early date and authenticity of these objects was apparent early on, as we had massive interest in this group. A collection of fresh objects like this rarely comes on the market, as it showed in the active bidding today.”

One of the most sought after lots of the sale was a flea market find: an over 4-foot-tall zinc model of the Statue of Liberty commissioned by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi (French, 1834-1904). The consignor was sure that he had purchased something special when he discovered it at the flea market for $200. Multiple bidders from the United States and Europe agreed, as Keno hammered it down for $37,500.

Another recent discovery was a double portrait by the Chinese-American artist Yun Gee (1906-1963), whose scarce paintings were exhibited in an exhibition at the Marlborough Gallery in New York in 2005. The painting had been collected by a New York City couple in the 1930s, but had remained hidden in a relative’s collection until offered for sale this fall. Painted in the Fauvist manner in 1926, it garnered great interest in the run-up to the sale, and made $42,500.

In addition to the Yun Gee painting, the sale featured a number of modern and contemporary works. A collection of six Salvador Dali (Spanish, 1904-1989) ink sketches, which he had given to his accountant, collectively brought $23,625, while a Charles Demuth (American, 1883-1935) watercolor made $16,250, and a large Esteban Vicente (American, 1903-2001) oil achieved $35,000.

An Iconic Wharton Esherick (American, 1887-1970) music stand with beautiful lines sold for $23,750, while a Hans Wegner (Danish, 1914-2007) swivel chair in original condition made $16,250. A rare Alexander Calder (1898-1976) artist’s proof tapestry did well, bringing $12,500, a record for the form.

There was also a representation of traditional artwork, highlighted by the Haskell of American and European painting from the Remington Museum. All of these pieces had not been on the market since the early 20th century. Works included a William Trost Richards (American, 1835-1905) oil seascape that sold for $31,250 and an Edmund Darch Lewis (American, 1835-1910) landscape that brought $20,000. From a private collection, came an elegant portrait by Charles Webster Hawthorne (American, 1872-1930) titled Morning Chocolate that made $36,250.

Afterwards, Leigh Keno commented about the range of objects. “We had bidders from all over the world competing for a wide range of objects. Overall the bidding was strong, with the top prices paid for fresh, high quality objects.”

Keno Auctions next sale will be during Americana Week in January.

Click here to view the fully illustrated catalog for this sale, complete with prices realized.


ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE


Navajo chief’s blanket. Keno Auctions image.

Navajo chief’s blanket. Keno Auctions image.

Howard regulator clock. Keno Auctions image.

Howard regulator clock. Keno Auctions image.

Yun Gee self-portrait. Keno Auctions image.

Yun Gee self-portrait. Keno Auctions image.

Statue of Liberty model. Keno Auctions image.

Statue of Liberty model. Keno Auctions image.

Esherick music stand. Keno Auctions image.

Esherick music stand. Keno Auctions image.

JFK shines brightest at John McInnis Legends Auction, Nov. 22-24

John F. Kennedy and actor Peter Lawford. John McInnis Auctioneers image.

AMESBURY, Mass. – Beginning on Nov. 22, John McInnis Auctioneers will present The Legends Auction, an event holding within it intrigue, mystery, controversy and fact. Over 1,500 lots will be sold related to President John F. Kennedy, his family and his contemporaries from that important era in American history including Hollywood mogul Milton Ebbins, President Kennedy’s brother-in-law Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, Marilyn Monroe, Ernest Hemingway and many more.

LiveAuctioneers.com will provide Internet live bidding.

The sale will begin at 3 p.m. Eastern on Friday, Nov. 22 with an autographed Warren Report, AP wire bulletins from the days surrounding the President Kennedy’s death, the Wall Street ticker tape from the day of the shooting and unique collections of photos of JFK and Jacqueline Kennedy by renowned photographers Jacques Lowe and Hy Peskin. Also selling Friday will be Ernest Hemingway unseen letters, private photos and signed books from the heirs of the author’s close friend in Cuba, Roberto Herrera.

In the second session, beginning at 10 a.m. EST on Saturday, Nov. 23, exciting and interesting lots reveal intimate portraits of the Kennedy family and friends at work and play, including the president’s “Summer White House” rocking chair used at Cape Cod; President Kennedy’s fedora; items from the heir of Kirk Lemoyne “Lem” Billings, JFK’s best friend, including the president’s cashmere blazer; extraordinary Jacqueline Kennedy fashion correspondence; a Felix de Weldon bronze sculpture of Kennedy; three watercolors hand-painted by President-elect Kennedy; recently declassified Cuban Missile Crisis material from the Estate of Dave Powers; a masterful dye transfer print by Owen Brown; and a unique framed collection of 50 bill-signing pens used by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. Additional photo collections will include those of Cape Cod-based Kennedy photojournalist Frank Falacci, celebrity photographer Frank Mastro and rare original negatives from Kennedy’s early political career.

On Sunday, also at 10 a.m., the third session will offer an astonishing collection from the heir of Hollywood mogul Milton Ebbins, manager, business partner and close friend of actor Peter Lawford. The records of Chrislaw Productions, which were given to Ebbins after the company dissolved and were held hidden in storage for over four decades, illustrate the link between the Kennedy White House and Hollywood during the golden age of Camelot. Other items include guest lists, movie scripts, casting notes, private phone logs and more related to many of the Kennedys, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, Marilyn Monroe, Patty Duke and many more.

With over 1,500 lots it is impossible to touch on all of the highlights.

Out of respect for this somber anniversary, the gallery will allow quiet time and moments of silence so that those like-minded individuals may honor the memory of President Kennedy.

View the fully illustrated catalog and register to bid absentee or live via the Internet as the sale is taking place by logging on to www.LiveAuctioneers.com.


ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE


John F. Kennedy and actor Peter Lawford. John McInnis Auctioneers image.

Tribute to Jackie, signed photo by Jacques Lowe. John McInnis Auctioneers image.

Tribute to Jackie, signed photo by Jacques Lowe. John McInnis Auctioneers image.

Rocking chair used by President John F. Kennedy at the ‘Summer White House.’ John McInnis Auctioneers image.

Rocking chair used by President John F. Kennedy at the ‘Summer White House.’ John McInnis Auctioneers image.

Autographed Warren Report. John McInnis Auctioneers image.

Autographed Warren Report. John McInnis Auctioneers image.

Framed collection of 50 pens used by Presidents JFK and LBJ to sign bills. John McInnis Auctioneers image.

Framed collection of 50 pens used by Presidents JFK and LBJ to sign bills. John McInnis Auctioneers image.

Ernest Hemingway Collection. John McInnis Auctioneers image.

Ernest Hemingway Collection. John McInnis Auctioneers image.

John F. Kennedy with the Boston Red Sox. John McInnis Auctioneers image.

John F. Kennedy with the Boston Red Sox. John McInnis Auctioneers image.

Watercolor by President John F. Kennedy. John McInnis Auctioneers image.

Watercolor by President John F. Kennedy. John McInnis Auctioneers image.

Trafalgar medal, paintings surface at Sworders’ sale Nov. 19

Victorian Naval General Service medal awarded to midshipman William Martin, plus miniature portrait and photograph. Sworders’ image.

Victorian Naval General Service medal awarded to midshipman William Martin, plus miniature portrait and photograph. Sworders’ image.

Victorian Naval General Service medal awarded to midshipman William Martin, plus miniature portrait and photograph. Sworders’ image.

ESSEX COUNTY, UK – A Victorian naval medal, awarded to mark action during the Battle of Trafalgar, is to be sold at auction by Sworders’ Fine Art Auctioneers on Tuesday, Nov. 19. LiveAuctioneers.com will provider Internet live bidding for the 664-lot auction, which will begin at 10 a.m. UK time, 2 a.m. Pacific.

The medal is for sale together with a miniature portrait of the sailor who received it and a photograph of him as a proud old man. The collection is going under the hammer at Sworders’ Fine Art Auctioneers’ saleroom in Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex.

The medal was awarded to midshipman William Martin who served on board HMS Minotaur during the Battle of Trafalgar in October 1805. His ship played a significant part in the defense of Nelson’s HMS Victory and contributed to the fleet’s defeat of the French and Spanish ships. William Martin, who was born in Cork, Ireland, was just 15 years old when he joined the navy and 21 when he served at Trafalgar.

William Martin’s Naval General Service Medal, complete with Trafalgar clasp, comes with a miniature portrait of him in his naval uniform dating from around 1810, and a photograph of him as an elderly man wearing the medal. The set is being auctioned at a guide price of £10,000 to £15,000 ($16,000-$24,000).

“This is a fabulous snapshot of military history with three pieces so closely linked to him and his service at the Battle of Trafalgar. It is quite unusual to have pieces such as this offered for sale together and we’re hoping this single lot will ensure that the record of William Martin stays intact,” said Sworders’ Director John Black.

Sworders’ Autumn Country House Sale also includes a selection of significant paintings. An oil painting by Lucien Pissarro titled Stratford-Upon-Avon, Sunset 1906 is being sold at a guide price from £20,000. The signed painting was last exhibited in public in London in 1981.

An oil painting by the Italian artist Rubens Santoro is also being auctioned. The piece, called The Cannaregio, Venice with the Palazzo Labia, is being sold at a guide price of £20,000 to £30,000.

View the fully illustrated catalog and register to bid absentee or live via the Internet as the sale is taking place by logging on to www.LiveAuctioneers.com.


ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE


Victorian Naval General Service medal awarded to midshipman William Martin, plus miniature portrait and photograph. Sworders’ image.
 

Victorian Naval General Service medal awarded to midshipman William Martin, plus miniature portrait and photograph. Sworders’ image.

‘Stratford-Upon-Avon, Sunset, 1906’ by French painter Lucien Pissarro. Sworders’ image.
 

‘Stratford-Upon-Avon, Sunset, 1906’ by French painter Lucien Pissarro. Sworders’ image.

‘The Cannaregio, Venice with the Palazzo Labia’ by Italian painter Rubens Santoro. Sworders’ image.
 

‘The Cannaregio, Venice with the Palazzo Labia’ by Italian painter Rubens Santoro. Sworders’ image.

Jeffrey S. Evans to auction Americana, fine antiques Nov. 16

Signed E.F. Bell, Strasburg, Va., walnut pie safe, made for potter Theophilus Grim and his wife, Carrie, likely for their wedding in 1870. Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates image.

Signed E.F. Bell, Strasburg, Va., walnut pie safe, made for potter Theophilus Grim and his wife, Carrie, likely for their wedding in 1870. Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates image.

Signed E.F. Bell, Strasburg, Va., walnut pie safe, made for potter Theophilus Grim and his wife, Carrie, likely for their wedding in 1870. Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates image.

MT. CRAWFORD, Va. – Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates’ auction Nov. 16 includes a wide and fine array of fine antiques, with an especially strong group of Americana offerings focusing on the decorative arts of the South. Works of interest being offered include 18th and 19th century furniture, rare folk pottery and folk art, long rifles, textiles, silver, fine jewelry, clocks, antique Oriental carpets, Asian material, and 18th and 19th century ceramics and glass.

LiveAuctioneers.com will provide Internet live bidding for the 1,100-plus-lot auction, which will begin at 9:30 a.m. Eastern.

The vernacular offerings include a number of rare and unusual pie safes, led by an important walnut example signed for E.F. Bell, Strasburg, Va., and made for Carrie and Theophilus Grim, likely for their wedding in 1870. Edward Fry Bell was the son of potter John Bell and nephew of Samuel Bell and Solomon Bell. He was listed as a cabinetmaker in the Federal census from 1870 to 1900. Theophilus Grim was an itinerate potter who worked at numerous shops in Strasburg as well as for David Henkel at the Stonyman Pottery in Page County.

Additional furniture in the sale includes an important Petersburg, Va., Chippendale black walnut armchair, circa 1760-1780, from the personal collection of Milly McGehee. The chair is from the same shop as the set made for the Epps family of Appomattox Manor, Hopewell, Va., now in the collection of the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America, Virginia. Also in this section are a fine Winchester, Va., Federal walnut child’s chest of drawers that has descended in the Bell and Henkel families of Winchester and a full-size cherry chest of drawers from the same shop, circa 1815.

Historically important material includes a group of items that have descended in the family of Thomas Boyle Campbell (1796–1858), silversmith of Winchester, Va. The group lot consists of a circa 1820 miniature portrait on ivory and a circa 1840 oil on canvas portrait, both depicting Campbell, five coin silver teaspoons that he made for his personal use, and several documents relating to Campbell family history.

The sale features one of the larger groups of fine art and jewelry the gallery has garnered of late. Works include painters as diverse as Fabbio Fabri, Francesco Coleman, Oscar Glatz, William Shayer I, William Frederick Giessel, and many other European artists, as well as Hudson River School painters and works done in America in the folk art vein. Russian works of art include pieces by and after Faberge from a Canadian private collection. Fine jewelry is led by a 3.65-carat heart-shape diamond platinum ring.

Featured consignments to the auction include the collections of Gail and the late Charlie Lohr, and Jessie and the late Eugene Long, both of Broadway, Va.; the eclectic 40-year collection of the late Margaret “Maggie” and Norwyn Rowe of Washington, D.C.; fine art and jewelry from the collection of Max and Gloria Mayo of Albemarle Co., Va.; items from the collection of Hugh and the late Pauline Weaver of Williamsburg, Va.; as well as important material descended in the Dooley family of Richmond..

Jeffrey S. Evans will present a free lecture on “New Discoveries in Shenandoah Valley Furniture and Decorative Arts” on Friday evening, Nov. 15, at 6 p.m. For further information email info@jeffreysevans.com or call 540-434-3939.

View the fully illustrated catalog and register to bid absentee or live via the Internet as the sale is taking place by logging on to www.LiveAuctioneers.com.


ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE


Signed E.F. Bell, Strasburg, Va., walnut pie safe, made for potter Theophilus Grim and his wife, Carrie, likely for their wedding in 1870. Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates image.

Signed E.F. Bell, Strasburg, Va., walnut pie safe, made for potter Theophilus Grim and his wife, Carrie, likely for their wedding in 1870. Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates image.

Important Petersburg, Va., Chippendale black walnut armchair, circa 1760-1780. Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates image.
 

Important Petersburg, Va., Chippendale black walnut armchair, circa 1760-1780. Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates image.

Important miniature portrait of Thomas Boyle Campbell (1796-1858), Winchester, Va., silversmith, circa 1818-1823. Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates image.
 

Important miniature portrait of Thomas Boyle Campbell (1796-1858), Winchester, Va., silversmith, circa 1818-1823. Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates image.

Fabio Fabbi (Italian, 1861-1946) oil on canvas, 23 inches x 16 inches, sight. Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates image.

Fabio Fabbi (Italian, 1861-1946) oil on canvas, 23 inches x 16 inches, sight. Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates image.

Russian works of art including pieces by and after Faberge, from a Canadian private collection. Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates image.
 

Russian works of art including pieces by and after Faberge, from a Canadian private collection. Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates image.

 

 

AIA’s Nov. 22 debut features superb jewelry, silver, Russian antiques

Wang Hing tea set. Authenticated Internet Auctions image.
Wang Hing tea set. Authenticated Internet Auctions image.

Wang Hing tea set. Authenticated Internet Auctions image.

LONDON – Authenticated Internet Auctions (AIA) will present its debut auction on Friday, Nov. 22, with Internet live bidding through LiveAuctioneers. The buyer’s premium is a straight 12 percent, with nothing added for Internet bidders.

The company’s Autumn Fine Arts Sale will feature the finest-quality antiques, magnificent silver, rare clocks and watches; fine jewelry, Russian antiques, enamels, perfume bottles and objets de vertu.

A featured lot is an 18K gold diamond and enamel brooch by Asprey, realistically modeled as a roaring tiger. Pave set with a generous array of white and yellow brilliant-cut diamonds, the tiger has marquis-shape emerald eyes, and black enamel “textured fur” highlights. Its open mouth reveals a deeply enameled red tongue and “sharp” teeth.

Another great prize in the sale is a British portrait miniature of a young lady with brown locks. Set in a gold frame, it dates to around 1780.

An important circa-1780 South Staffordshire enamel perfume bottle was created in the form of billing doves. The two birds, draped in rose garlands, bear the legend “Le modelle pour prenes.”

A Chinese bamboo-pattern silver tea set by Wang Hing, circa 1890, consists of a tea pot with hinged cover, one milk jug, and one sugar basin. Each is marked with a heraldic cartouche with engraved monogram. Dimensions are: tea pot 6.75 x 7.75 x 4in., milk jug 3.75 x 4.75 x 3.25in., sugar basin 4 x 6.5 by 3.25 in. Total weight is 32oz.

A wonderful Swiss gold carne de balle with an enamel miniature on one side and a watercolor depicting a beauty on the other, was made around 1800. It is approximately 4 inches tall.

For additional information, email info@authenticatedinternetauctions.com.

View the fully illustrated catalog for AIA’s Nov. 22 debut auction and sign up to bid absentee or live via the Internet at www.LiveAuctioneers.com.

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View the fully illustrated catalog and register to bid absentee or live via the Internet as the sale is taking place by logging on to www.LiveAuctioneers.com.


ADDITIONAL LOTS OF NOTE


Wang Hing tea set. Authenticated Internet Auctions image.
 

Wang Hing tea set. Authenticated Internet Auctions image.

Tiger brooch. Authenticated Internet Auctions image.
 

Tiger brooch. Authenticated Internet Auctions image.

Bilston perfume. Authenticated Internet Auctions image.
 

Bilston perfume. Authenticated Internet Auctions image.

Wang Hing tea set. Authenticated Internet Auctions image.

Wang Hing tea set. Authenticated Internet Auctions image.

Gold canet de balle. Authenticated Internet Auctions image.
 

Gold canet de balle. Authenticated Internet Auctions image.

Germany to include Jewish group in hunt for Nazi-looted art

One of the recovered paintings is this watercolor by Otto Griebel titled 'Child at the Table.' Image courtesy of www.lostart.de

One of the recovered paintings is this watercolor by Otto Griebel titled 'Child at the Table.' Image courtesy of www.lostart.de
One of the recovered paintings is this watercolor by Otto Griebel titled ‘Child at the Table.’ Image courtesy of www.lostart.de
BERLIN (AFP) – Germany moved Wednesday to answer further criticism of its handling of a vast trove of Nazi-looted art by pledging to include Jewish advocates in a search for rightful owners and improve a website cataloging the works.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said the German government was in talks with the Jewish Claims Conference to link up their art provenance experts with a task force appointed Monday to comb through the more than 1,400 works discovered in a Munich flat.

He also announced improvements to an official government website www.lostart.de which this week posted details on an initial lot of 25 works in the stash by the likes of Matisse, Delacroix and Rodin after it crashed repeatedly this week.

“We have brought great momentum to this process by forming the task force,”

Seibert insisted when asked by reporters about complaints Germany had been too slow and secretive in its handling of the spectacular case.

“The first works have been presented on the platform www.lostart.de, which will of course be expanded with further works and a commission is working flat out to accommodate what has of course been an enormous rise in user demand for this online platform.”

Seibert added that beyond the “at least six” art historians appointed to the new task force, Germany would turn to experts from abroad to make the hunt for the works’ true owners more efficient and fair.

“We are for example in very close consultations with the Jewish Claims Conference. They also have expertise in this area,” he said, adding that the parameters of the cooperation were still being hammered out.

“We are working, fully aware of the responsibility that Germany has, also in the context of looted art in connection with National Socialist (Nazi) crimes.”

After a week of uproar over the revelation that German customs police had nearly two years ago seized about 1,400 treasured works stashed for decades in the home of elderly recluse Cornelius Gurlitt, the government took a few steps toward transparency.

Jewish groups welcomed the measures but urged more decisive action.

The JCC, a U.S.-based Holocaust restitution organization, called Tuesday for seats on the task force and for all the works found in the Munich flat to be placed on the government website by the year’s end.

Gurlitt is the son of Hildebrand Gurlitt, a powerful art dealer commissioned by the Nazis with selling confiscated, looted and extorted works in exchange for hard currency.


ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE


One of the recovered paintings is this watercolor by Otto Griebel titled 'Child at the Table.' Image courtesy of www.lostart.de
One of the recovered paintings is this watercolor by Otto Griebel titled ‘Child at the Table.’ Image courtesy of www.lostart.de

Experts restoring 17th-century Italian masterpiece

University of Delaware conservator Kristin deGhetaldi standing in front of 'The Triumph of David,' which gives an impression of the scale of Pietro da Cortona's painting. Photo by Steven Crossot, courtesy of Villanova University.

University of Delaware conservator Kristin deGhetaldi standing in front of 'The Triumph of David,' which gives an impression of the scale of Pietro da Cortona's painting. Photo by Steven Crossot, courtesy of Villanova University.
University of Delaware conservator Kristin deGhetaldi standing in front of ‘The Triumph of David,’ which gives an impression of the scale of Pietro da Cortona’s painting. Photo by Steven Crossot, courtesy of Villanova University.
VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) – For decades, a giant 17th-century Italian masterpiece has been slowly losing its luster on an obscure library wall on the Villanova University campus.

Also fading—from memory—has been the artwork’s fascinating backstory. It begins with an American-born Italian princess and a papal palace, twists through World War II, and ends up on the Main Line with the help of an ambitious priest.

But now the century-long, operatic tale of the princess, the priest, and the painting is getting a bright and uplifting new finale.

The school and a University of Delaware conservator are working to give new life to Triumph of David, the epic 12-by-20-foot piece by Pietro da Cortona, one of the most important painters in Rome in his time. They hope the two-year restoration will brighten an oil painting that has not only been degraded and discolored by the passage of time but suffered damage during the 1944 Battle of Nemi on the Italian front.

“If a da Vinci has a scratch in it, do you throw it away?” asked conservator Kristin deGhetaldi, a doctoral student at the University of Delaware who is leading the $100,000 project.

“There are not a lot of oil paintings associated with Pietro’s circle in the U.S., and the sheer size of the painting makes it very unique,” she said.

Also worthy of a revival is the Baroque tale of how a canvas depicting David presenting Goliath’s head to King Saul—accompanied by 10 other Italian paintings from a castle outside Rome—made it in the 1950s to Villanova, where it has been hanging ever since in the Falvey Library.

The story begins in the ashes of the American Civil War. Jennie Berry was born in northern Georgia in 1861, the daughter of a former Confederate colonel. After traveling and studying in Europe, she married a successful Nashville businessman who died several years later, leaving her a very wealthy widow and what one account called “a jet-setter before jets.”

In 1901, when Berry was 40, she married Don Enrico Ruspoli, the 23-year-old son of an Italian prince. They purchased the historic Castle Nemi outside Rome that had belonged, at various times, to many of the great papal families.

Don Enrico Ruspoli died just eight years later, and he left most of his property, including the castle, to his brother. But Berry, now known as Princess Eugenia Ruspoli, maintained she had supplied the funds for the castle with the agreement that should her husband die, she would retain possession.

A bitter court battle led to a 1916 agreement in which the princess obtained the title and all the house’s contents. Meanwhile, she had returned to the United States after Don Enrico Ruspoli’s death and lived in New York but still traveled frequently to Italy.

At the outbreak of World War II, Ruspoli shipped antique furniture, paintings and sculpture to her sister Martha Berry, who founded Berry College in Rome, Ga., which now owns most of Eugenia Ruspoli’s collection. But Triumph of David was still inside the castle when it was heavily damaged by a bomb in 1944. The painting also suffered water damage.

One last plot twist brought 11 of those paintings to Villanova.

Ruspoli, a philanthropic socialite, knew many prominent clergy, and it was through a Vatican connection in Washington that she met the Rev. Daniel P. Falvey, Villanova’s librarian who was in the process of building a new facility. Falvey, who started the Friends of Villanova Library to raise funds for the project, convinced Ruspoli that the rising building would be an ideal home for her family treasures, and she donated them just months before she died in 1951.

“I think she decided that Villanova was an appropriate place” for the painting, said a granddaughter, Elena Corso, who lives in New York.

Since 1956, Triumph of David has hung in a wing of the library now known on campus as “Old Falvey.” But experts said three earlier restorations did more harm than good.

“It went through some tough times. That being said, it’s survived very, very well,” said deGhetaldi, who is being helped by interns and a Villanova chemistry professor and art historian.

It is still definitely worth saving, she said.

Cortona was known primarily as an architect, but his most important work is the ceiling fresco of the Palazzo Barberini in Rome, said Carl Strehlke, adjunct curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Cortona also did preparatory drawings for some of the tapestries depicting the story of the Emperor Constantine that hang in the Philadelphia museum.

Strehlke said it was difficult to know the value of the Villanova painting in its present state.

Overpaint and varnish have degraded and dulled the original vibrant colors and, in places, left big black blotches. DeGhetaldi pointed out a brilliant blue robe on a figure of a dancing woman, which she had restored to its original hue. In the middle was a small grayish patch that she had left untouched to show how the colors had faded.

Cortona was known for “vibrant blues, lovely colors, beautiful skies. That’s not what we have here,” deGhetaldi said.

After removing or reducing the overpaint and varnishes, restorers will retouch and apply a more stable finish.

While most restorations take place in the bowels of museums, the Cortona is being cleaned and repaired in its home in “Old Falvey,” where anyone can watch and ask questions or follow the project via a webcam and blog.

When the painting is finished, the room will be remodeled into a student lounge with an atrium where the restored painting will hang.

With the rest of the princess’ gifts fading away in storage, deGhetaldi said she would like to see what other treasures might be there.

“It’s fun,” she said. “Like going into an attic, and you don’t know what you will find.”

___

Information from: The Philadelphia Inquirer, http://www.philly.com

Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-11-11-13 1614GMT


ADDITIONAL IMAGE OF NOTE


University of Delaware conservator Kristin deGhetaldi standing in front of 'The Triumph of David,' which gives an impression of the scale of Pietro da Cortona's painting. Photo by Steven Crossot, courtesy of Villanova University.
University of Delaware conservator Kristin deGhetaldi standing in front of ‘The Triumph of David,’ which gives an impression of the scale of Pietro da Cortona’s painting. Photo by Steven Crossot, courtesy of Villanova University.