Mrs. William Astor (Caroline Webster Schermerhorn, 1831–1908)
Carolus-Duran (Charles-Auguste-Émile Durant) (French, Lille 1837–1917 Paris)
Oil on canvas
83 1/2 x 42 1/4 in. (212.1 x 107.3 cm)
Gift of R. Thornton Wilson and Orme Wilson, 1949
Not on view
Carolus-Duran was at the peak of his success as a society portraitist when he painted this likeness of the American banker's wife in Paris in 1890. The pose and the costume, with their strong suggestions of the seventeenth century, reflect the artist's early and continued admiration for Velázquez.
Mr. and Mrs. William Astor, New York (from 1890); the sitter's grandsons, R. Thornton Wilson and Orme Wilson, New York (until 1949)
New York. National Academy of Design. "Portraits of Women," November 1–24, 1894, no. 45 (as "Mrs. Astor," lent by Mrs. Astor).
St. Petersburg, Fla. Museum of Fine Arts. "Paris in the Belle Epoque: People and Places," March 1–April 6, 1980, no. 16 (as "Mrs. William Astor").
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "La Belle Époque," December 6, 1982–September 4, 1983, unnum. checklist.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Dance," December 17, 1986–September 6, 1987, unnum. checklist.
Washington. National Portrait Gallery. "Edith Wharton's World: Portraits of People and Places," September 26, 1997–January 25, 1998, unnumbered cat. (as "Caroline Webster Schermerhorn [Mrs. William] Astor").
"Portraits of Women." Outlook (November 17, 1894), p. 820.
"Portraits of Fair Women: Social Leaders of Two Centuries Seen in the Academy." New York Times (November 2, 1894), p. 8, in a description of the opening reception for "Portraits of Women" [Exh. New York 1894], mentions this picture among those "which were at all times being discussed and admired, owing to the fact that their originals are leaders in the social world of today".
C. M. S. "Gallery and Studio: The Exhibition of Women's Portraits at the Academy." Brooklyn Eagle (November 4, 1894), p. 22.
Arsène Alexandre. Carolus-Duran. Paris, 1903, ill. p. 23, as "Portrait de Mme Astor".
Charles Sterling and Margaretta M. Salinger. French Paintings: A Catalogue of the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 2, XIX Century. New York, 1966, p. 195, ill., note the influence of Velázquez in the pose and costume.
Denys Sutton inParis—New York: A Continuing Romance. Exh. cat., Wildenstein. New York, 1977, p. 54, under no. 56, pl. VIII.
Gary A. Reynolds. "John Singer Sargent's Portraits: Building a Cosmopolitan Career." Arts Magazine 62 (November 1987), p. 43, fig. 3, discusses this picture as an example of the artist's "tendency to add a veneer of academic finish to his important commissioned portraits," noting the tightened brushwork in the head and hands.
Marie Simon. Fashion in Art: The Second Empire and Impressionism. London, 1995, pp. 102–3, 246 n. 40, ill. (color), notes that Mrs. Astor's dress was designed by Worth and displays a combination of seventeenth-century elements, possibly inspired by van Dyck paintings.
Eleanor Dwight and Viola Hopkins Winner. Edith Wharton's World: Portraits of People and Places. Exh. cat., National Portrait Gallery. Washington, 1997, p. 6, ill. (color), remark that Mrs. Astor wears a masquerade costume representing Mary, Queen of Scots.
Monique Nonne inCarolus-Duran. Exh. cat., Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille. Paris, 2003, p. 38, notes the importance of this picture for Carolus-Duran's popularity among American high society.
Barbara Dayer Gallati in Barbara Dayer Gallati. High Society. American Portraits of the Gilded Age. Exh. cat., Bucerius Kunst Forum. Hamburg, 2008, p. 16, fig. 2 (color).
Eric Homberger in Barbara Dayer Gallati. High Society. American Portraits of the Gilded Age. Exh. cat., Bucerius Kunst Forum. Hamburg, 2008, p. 35.