The Preservation Society of Newport County said this week it purchased the busts of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt, and his grandson, Cornelius Vanderbilt II, from the commodore’s great-great-great grandson, Count Peter Eltz, for $175,000.
Cornelius Vanderbilt II was a railroad magnate and built The Breakers, a 70-room Italian Renaissance-style palazzo that is the city’s largest “summer cottage.” It was designed by the architect Richard Morris Hunt.
The Preservation Society purchased The Breakers and its furnishings from the Vanderbilt family in 1972. The family kept ownership of some artwork but loaned the pieces to the society so it could continue to display them. The marble busts were among those pieces and have been on display there since 1927.
The nonprofit group says it negotiated to buy the busts after another museum expressed interest to Eltz about acquiring them. It raised the money with donations from Elizabeth and William Kahane, Nicholas and Shelley Schorsch, and Vanderbilt descendant Eugene B. Roberts Jr., and his wife. The group says Eltz donated a portion of the purchase price back to the Preservation Society to pay for other restoration efforts.
The commodore’s bust was done by Hiram Powers in 1853 and is displayed in the billiards room. The bust of his grandson is displayed in the Great Hall and is attributed to John Quincy Adams Ward around 1885.
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