(SACRAMENTO, CA -- March 10, 2020) The Crocker Art Museum is delighted to announce the gift of Giovanni Boldini's 1906 painting "Ethel Mary Crocker, later Countess Andre de Limur." The gift not only broadens the Museum's renowned collection of European paintings but also reunites portraits of two Crocker sisters, close relatives of the Museum's founding family.
In April 1906, ten days after the San Francisco earthquake and fire, Helen Victoria Crocker and and her older sister, Ethel Mary, departed New York for Paris on the liner Deutschland. Their father, William H. Crocker (nephew of Crocker Art Museum founder, Edwin Bryant Crocker) remained in San Francisco to aid in recovery efforts.
At the time, Giovanni Boldini, an Italian artist who had moved to Paris in 1872, was the city’s most sought-after portraitist, dominating the field along with John Singer Sargent and Anders Zorn. Just a month before the arrival of the Crocker girls, he completed "The Duchess of Marlborough (Consuelo Vanderbilt) and her Son," perhaps his most famous painting, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
In choosing Boldini to paint the girls’ portraits, the Crocker family responded to fashion, but there was also a personal connection. Twenty years prior, he had painted their aunt, Harriet Crocker Alexander, and he would also later portray the girls’ mother, also named Ethel Mary, in 1910.
"Painted in Boldini's dynamic style at the height of his powers, the portraits of Helen Victoria and Mary Ethel provide a link between their Gilded Age world and our own," says the Museum's curator, William Breazeale. "We are delighted that these two portraits, painted in the same room and separated by circumstance for so many years, are joined again in the Crocker's European paintings galleries."
Helen Victoria's portrait came to the Museum in 2012 as a gift of Mr. and Mrs. Charles (Eleanor Walsh) de Limur. In it, the subject stands in a paneled room, in a knee-length taffeta dress with a pink sash. A ribbon in her hair, also pink, draws attention to her intelligent, piercing gaze. At her waist she toys with a bouquet of roses, petals falling to the floor next to her fashionable shoes.
Ethel Mary, five years older, sits in a chair in the same room, a halo of dark, elegantly styled hair framing her face, lace cascading down her bodice. As in the portrait of the younger sister, Boldini ties together the composition with color, here through the black hair ribbon, sash, and the decoration of the hat she holds in her lap. The portrait is a 2019 bequest of Mrs. Eric (Mary Ethel de Limur Carrothers) Weinmann, the sitter's daughter.
Both sisters were great philanthropists later in life, Ethel Mary in the cultural life of Washington , D.C. supporting many organizations including Dumbarton Oaks, and Helen Victoria in San Francisco, where the horticultural library is named after her.
Still in their original frames, the sisters' portraits are now displayed side by side in the Crocker Art Museum historic building, which was completed in 1872 and today houses the Museum's renowned European collection.
High-resolution images of the paintings are available upon request.
ABOUT THE CROCKER
Through engaging, innovative, and life-changing interactions with art, the Crocker Art Museum provides meaningful opportunities for people of divergent backgrounds to find common ground. Founded as a public/private partnership in 1885, the Crocker features the world’s foremost display of California art and is renowned for its holdings of master drawings and international ceramics, as well as European, Asian, African, and Oceanic art. The Crocker serves as the primary regional resource for the study and appreciation of fine art and offers a diverse spectrum of exhibitions, events, and programs to deepen visitors' understanding of art, including films, concerts, studio classes, lectures, and an array of activities for families and children. More information about exhibits and programs can be found at crockerart.org