Published: January 14, 2014
NEWPORT, R.I. — Marble portrait busts of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877) and his grandson, Cornelius Vanderbilt II (1843-1899), which have been on display at The Breakers since 1927, have been acquired by the Preservation Society of Newport County and are now assured of remaining there permanently, thanks to the generosity of several donors.
When the society purchased The Breakers and its furnishings from the Vanderbilt family in 1972, the family retained ownership of a small portion of its artwork, including the two busts. Both remained on loan to the society, one on display in the billiards room and the other in the Great Hall. Most recently, ownership of the two busts had descended through the family to Count Peter Eltz, the great-great-great grandson of the commodore.
When another museum recently expressed interest in acquiring the sculptures, the society opened negotiations with Count Eltz and sought out donors to help with the cost so that they would not be lost. Thanks to the generosity of Mr and Mrs William Kahane, Mr and Mrs Nicholas Schorsch and Mr and Mrs Eugene B. Roberts Jr (himself a Vanderbilt descendant), the busts are now permanently on display at The Breakers.
“We can’t thank the Kahane, Schorsch and Roberts families enough for this generous gift,” society chairman Donald O. Ross. “These marble busts have been on our priority list for acquisition because of their direct connection to the Vanderbilt family and the significance of the artists who created them. We are gratified to know that they will remain here where they belong and where visitors can continue to appreciate them.”
“We are also grateful to Peter Eltz for making the busts available to us, and for returning part of the $175,000 purchase price back to the preservation society in the form of a donation to pay for needed maintenance work and painting of the Children’s Cottage at The Breakers.”
During a European trip aboard his yacht North Star in 1853, Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt commissioned the bust of himself from American sculptor Hiram Powers (1805–1873), who was working in Florence. The white marble sculpture, portraying the commodore with a toga draped around his shoulders, was originally displayed in his New York house, and eventually in the home of his eldest grandson, Cornelius Vanderbilt II, at 1 West 57th Street.
The bust was moved to The Breakers by Mrs Cornelius Vanderbilt II in 1927, along with the bust of her husband, Cornelius Vanderbilt II, attributed to American sculptor John Quincy Adams Ward (1830–1910).
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