By JIM KEVLIN
‘An icon” in American painting may soon be represented at Hyde Hall, where Samuel F.B. Morse’s original “Gallery of the Louvre” hung for 15 years in the mid-19th century.
The original work, painted in 1832-33 in Paris and now owned by the Terra Foundation for American Art in Chicago, is worth $3.25 million. But the foundation has agreed to make a full-size copy, 6 feet by 9 feet, to hang where the original did from 1834 to 1850 at the National Historic Landmark on Hyde Bay.
“Gallery at the Louvre” – James Fenimore Cooper and family members are depicted in it – was
“one of the most complex paintings completed by an American artist up to that time,” said historic preservationist Gib Vincent, a consultant for Hyde Hall.
Morse created his own version of the Louvre’s Salon Carre. On the walls, he painted what he considered the museum’s most notable paintings – “Mona Lisa,” plus works by Rubens, Raphael, Titian and Rembrandt.
The girl in the foreground being instructed by Morse may be Susan Fenimore Cooper, the novelist’s daughter. Cooper can be seen declaiming to his wife and another daughter in the corner at left.
Morse – he also invented the Morse Code, partly at the Masonic Building in Cherry Valley – intended to tour the nation with the painting, charging 25 cents a head for people to view it, but he abandoned the idea. (Bierstadt and Frederic Church later did so very successfully, Vincent said.)
Morse then offered it for sale for $2,500, and it was purchased in 1834 by George Clarke, the country squire and businessman who built the Hyde Hall mansion. He paid $1,200.
When Clarke died the following year, his son and heir, 12-year-old George Hyde Clarke, assumed ownership. In 1850, he sold it to James Townsend of Albany, whose daughter, Julia Townsend Monroe, donated it to Syracuse University in 1892.
There it languished, out of sight, for decades. Vincent went to Syracuse in the 1970s to see it, but was told it was boxed away, inaccessible. In 1992, however, the university recognized its value, unearthed it and sold it at auction to Daniel Terra, a wealthy shoe manufacturer with an interest in art. The price was the highest for an American painting up to that time.
Terra has since passed away, but his foundation does loan the canvas out from time to time. Last year, Vincent said, it was shown at the “American Stories” exhibit at the Met.
Hyde Hall’s effort to obtain a copy was initiated by Mitch Owens of Sharon Springs, editor of ELLE DÉCOR magazine and a Hyde Hall board member, who called to clarify the situation after an item published last week reported the original was en route.
Owens had contacted the Terra, and it was agreed that a full-size Giclée print of the original would be made. Reproduced on canvas, it would have some of the texture of the original.
While the print will be complete by August, Vincent said Hyde Hall is still raising the money to acquire it, frame it with an appropriate frame and transport it here.
The picture would hang on the far wall of the parlor, the room to the left as you enter the mansion.