Carnegie Museum of Art auctions 5 George Romney portraits
Portrait of Colin, the Dunlop of Carmyle, Provost of Glasgow by British portrait artist George Romney.
Portrait of John Mills by George Romney.
George Romney's painting of "Mrs. Bruce" will remain at the Carnegie Museum of Art.
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Five portraits that have not been exhibited at Carnegie Museum of Art since the 1930s will be sold during an auction later this month at Christie's in New York.
Painted between 1770 and 1789 by 18th-century British artist George Romney, four of the five portraits were donated to the museum in 1929 after the death of Katharine Louise Siedle, widow of J. Willis Dalzell, a successful industrialist. Mrs. Dalzell collected the art, which hung in her dining room. In 1925, she donated her first painting to the museum, a portrait of John Mills by Romney.
Louise Lippincott, the museum's curator of fine arts, said Romney's work was "extremely fashionable, for reasons I don't fully understand, in the U.S. from 1900 to 1925."
The sale was prompted by limited storage space and the fact that the museum's curators continue to collect. The contemporary department "is growing like crazy. We really are going back down to storage and, for the first time in years, saying, 'Do these things belong in our collection? Are we ever going to have a public use for these objects?' " Ms. Lippincott said.
Mrs. Dalzell's name will not disappear from the museum.
"We do have other works from her collection that we kept and that are on view. There's a wonderful 18th-century British portrait by Francis Cotes of Lady Dering," Ms. Lippincott said, adding that it's in the Bruce Galleries.
With the proceeds from the sale, Ms. Lippincott hopes to buy a drawing by Romney, who is known for his "amazing, imaginative drawings of dramatic subjects." Whatever art is bought with the proceeds will be credited to Mrs. Dalzell.
The most attractive painting is of Colin Dunlop of Carmyle, the provost of Glasgow. The auction house estimates it will sell for $25,000 to $35,000. The most significant historic figure is Admiral John Orde, one of the commanders of the British Fleet during the American Revolution. Its estimate is $12,000 to $18,000.
Sale price for a portrait of John Mills is estimated at $10,000 to $15,000. Mills is a common British name and Romney, Ms. Lippincott said, "was a lousy record keeper and a bad speller. There are nine or 10 people it could be."
A portrait of Mrs. Bruce, who was born in 1767 and died in 1840, has an interesting history.
"She eloped with Craufurd Bruce in 1785. He was a much older man. He was extremely rich. The family packs him off to India immediately to let the scandal die down," Ms. Lippincott said. Mrs. Bruce returned to England in 1792.
"One of our visiting experts pointed out that the neckline of her dress had been changed. She had an extremely low-cut dress and somebody had altered the painting to raise the neckline," Ms. Lippincott said.
First Published January 8, 2011 12:00 am