By PBN Staff
NEWPORT – The largest collection of 18th century Venetian paintings in the United States has returned to its original American home at The Elms in Newport, the Preservation Society of Newport County announced Monday.
More than 50 years ago, many of the paintings in The Elms’ collection were auctioned off as the house was prepared for demolition.
The Preservation Society managed to save the property from demolition after raising enough funds to purchase the house from a commercial developer and open it to the public as a museum in 1962. The property had gone to auction in 1962 after the death of owner Julie Berwind.
Primarily thanks to the generosity of a small group of donors, the Preservation Society has been able to purchase the last two paintings that were missing from the dining room of The Elms, bringing it back to the way it looked when it was completed by architect Horace Trumbauer and interior decorator Jules Allard in 1901.
“This is a truly significant preservation story,” Preservation Society CEO & Executive Director Trudy Coxe said in prepared remarks. “We’ve not only re-assembled an important collection of paintings, but in doing so we have taken another huge step forward in restoring a National Historic Landmark to its original appearance.”
The Elms’ collection consists of 10 paintings. The four largest canvasses remained in place after the 1962 auction of the mansion’s collections, but six smaller canvases were sold.
According to a release, the Preservation Society succeeded in raising the funds needed to purchase four of the six paintings and restore them to their positions in 2004. This year, a new round of negotiations with Wildenstein & Co. art dealers succeeded in setting a favorable price for the last two paintings, by artist Sebastiano Ricci.
“The importance of these fine early 18th century Venetian paintings can’t be overestimated,” Eugene B. Roberts Jr., chairman of the Preservation Society’s collections committee, said in a statement. “Interior decorator Jules Allard specifically designed the dining room of The Elms as a backdrop for these paintings. They have now found their way back home.”