“The Blue Boy” arrives at the San Marino Ranch (1922)
by Nancy Armitage
“I want them to come & see me for a cup of tea…” said Arabella Huntington. On Tuesday, March 21, 1922, Mr. & Mrs. H. E. Huntington (Edwards & Arabella) had a exciting delivery to their residence at the San Marino Ranch. The famous painting “Blue Boy” & “the Tragic Muse” by Gainsborough was hand-delivered by Sir Joseph Duveen himself, their antique dealer & friend. It was a joyful day indeed!! In Burke Journals, it was noted that the “Blue Boy” was hung the very next day in the Large Drawing Room. Mr. Huntington was so excited about this purchase (highest painting ever paid for at the time). The Huntington’s Head Butler, Alfonso Gomez states that when Mr. Huntington would leave the mansion, he would go into the Large Drawing Room & salute “Blue Boy” to a goodbye. A very sweet gesture.
It was a big trip west for ‘Blue Boy”, Duveen set up a art exhibition in London before they ever left the country. They sailed by steamship across from London to New York City. Again, Blue Boy had another art exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that was very well received. People stood in line for hours just to catch a glimpse of “Blue Boy”. Duveen wrote Mr. Huntington a humorous letter how “his boy” couldn’t wait to get home. Then, Duveen & “Blue Boy” traveled by private railroad car from New York City to the San Marino Ranch taking about 7 days.
So after the arrival of “Blue Boy”, the Huntingtons start getting numerous letters. These requests were from random people & strangers to come see the “Blue Boy” painting. Movie stars like Ethel Barrymore & Douglas Fairbanks would write to Mr. Huntington & ask to see his “Blue Boy”. This annoyed Mrs. Huntington quite a bit. In some publications is Mrs. Huntington is incorrectly quoted that she didn’t want anyone to come to the house. That is not true. I think its all wrapped up with this one quote. Mrs. Huntington loved having family & friends to the San Marino Ranch. The Huntington’s entertained often for formal luncheons with 12 guests, especially in 1920-1922. What she actually said was…..
The Huntington’s Head butler, Alfonso Gomez documents years later, “Mr. & Mrs. Huntington had a very strong idea the last few years. They didn’t want to hear one single word about people wanting to see the place [Huntington Mansion at the San Marino Ranch] because they thought that if people were coming to see their “Blue Boy” or “Fortune Tellers” or any of their paintings (“pictures”), that people were already coming to see a museum, when it was still a private house. And they said they wanted to keep it as a private residence & there would be plenty of time (to come see the paintings), after their deaths”. So Mrs. Huntington stated, “regardless of that, I want my house to stay as a private house. Anyone who walks into my house, it will be for luncheon or to see me for a cup of tea, not to see the paintings.” Fair enough, I agree.
So what did the Huntington’s do when “Blue Boy” arrived? Did they have a little English Teaparty or a English Dinner to celebrate?? Arabella loved theme parties. We know that the Holladay Family came over to the Huntington Mansion that day to see the famous painting quickly; they left to dress & “to dine” at the Marshall residence in Pasadena. Were the Huntingtons & Duveens invited to Marshall’s party? I’m not sure. We know that Sir Joseph Duveen was the Huntington’s houseguest, maybe Mrs. Duveen, too.
A very English tea could have been made for Mrs. Huntington & guests in a moment’s notice. She would instruct the Butler to use one of her numerous English tea pattern maybe the English Coalport because it was blue, gold & white or her fancy silver tea set.
A lovely English tea menu could be: Prince of Wales Tea Blend, Salmon with Dill & Cucumber Tea Sandwiches (like the London Ritz), Homemade Scones made with Heavy Cream, served with San Marino Ranch Orange Marmalade, Petit Lemon Curd tarts , small Chocolate tarts, Apple & Gooseberry Tarts (he grew Loganberries), Custard Tart, or Roly Poly Pudding with Raspberry Jam rolled up inside.
Prince of Wales Tea Recipe (1921) – London, England
This tea is made in a variety of ways, but it always has a hint of black currant in it.
1 oz. Assam
1 oz. Keenum
1 oz. Lucky Dragon
1 oz. Gunpowder, a green tea from China
1 oz, Larkspur blossoms, dried
1 oz. Oolong tea
1 oz. Black Currant berries, dried
Mix all teas & fruit in a stainless steel bowl & stir well. Add mixture to 1 pt. mason jar. For 1 cup of tea: add 1 t. dry tea to a tea strainer to 1 c. hot water. Recipe: Nancy Armitage
On August 30, 1919, the “Trust Indenture” that Mr. & Mrs. H. E. Huntington signed, donated all their property including “the Blue Boy” (a world treasure): H. E. Huntington Library & Art Gallery to the great State of California. When Mr. Huntington bought the San Marino Ranch is was 501 acres. H.E.Huntington continued to buy many of the ranches around it enlarging its size. Aren’t we so very lucky to enjoy such a beautiful property!!
Document: HEH Coll. HEH 19/1-18 (Uncat) Alfonso Gomez interview tapes; Alfonso was HEH’s Gentlemen’s Valet & Head Butler to the Huntingtons, HEH Coll. MS 10968 (Burke Holladay Journals), HEH Coll. MS 38/6 (HEH’s Wills), HEH Coll. HEH MS Correspondence (Barrymore & Fairbanks letters) Huntington Library San Marino, CA.