Arabella Huntington’s: Portraits, Tiaras, and Jewels

By Nancy Armitage

So how many black & white or sepia-colored photographs of Mrs. Arabella Huntington exist? In the last decade, researchers have unearthed a handful of Mrs. Huntington’s portraits at the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA. In the “Belle of San Marino” exhibition (2006) (Huntington Library CA): we saw at least 5 new photographs of Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington, we had never seen before which was very exciting indeed! Dr. Bennett also found a couple of Mrs. Huntington’s photographs archived at her son’s Archer Huntington’s museum: Hispanic Society of America in NYC.

Arabella Yarrington as a young girl. She looks young in her teenage years in this image. Photo Credit: Nancy Armitage at a HEH’s exhibition 1919 at the Huntington Library, San Marino, Calif.

How many photographs have been compiled of Mrs. Arabella Huntington, a solid 12, if not more. There are a couple of young Miss Arabella Yarrington as a young girl with no glasses (above). In 1900, there are several photos recorded in Paris, when she was a widow, one with a hat & a long Victorian black dress. She is wearing what I call The “Grand Diamond Tiara” – (unknown location). The photograph has Mrs. Collis P. Huntington (Arabella) with a Diamond tiara & 6 strands of white pearls & white pearl earrings. There are several photos of Mrs. Huntington also in San Francisco (One in sequin dress, one in a fancy dress with a white pearl choker (1890’s), & one photo of Arabella with a Mexican or Spanish style dress & a small tiara).

My personal favorite Arabella Huntington or Mrs. Collis Huntington portrait (below), she is so elegant. She was probably photographed in Paris. She could be seated or standing; Arabella had a gigantic wide Victorian brim hat with a large bow attached to the top of the hat. She is wearing a stunning sequin & lace black dress; it is a scooped & scalloped lace neckline. She might have a scarf or a choker on, I can’t quite tell. She has 3 strands of long white pearls & white pearl earrings. In my opinion, she is about 40 years old & looking very chic.

Mrs. Collis P. Huntington, 1910, Arabella looked so elegant & worldly in this photo, Original photo at the Hispanic Society of America, New York City. Most likely this photo is taken in Paris, France on her annual European tour.

Picture Portraits – Paintings of Mrs. Arabella Huntington/Mrs. Collis P. Huntington/Mrs. Arabella Worsham

San Marino Ranch ( Huntington Library) Portrait by Sir Oswald Birley (1924) from London, England

We see at the Huntington Library, in Southern California one of the most unflattering portrait paintings of Mrs. H. E. Huntington (Arabella). As you first enter the Huntington Gallery in San Marino, CA; this painting hangs in the hallway opposite of Mr. H.E. Huntington’s portrait. The most interesting things about the portrait was Mrs. Huntington’s 2 strands of black pearl necklace (huge size) or could it be Black jet? (so the artist makes the painting pop with highlights of the necklace & what looks like diamond drop earrings (Below). We know that she had huge black pearls (as big as your thumb) written about in a letter by Mrs. Howard “Leslie” Huntington to HEH’s daughter Elizabeth Huntington.

Both these portrait paintings of the Huntingtons were painted at the San Marino Ranch by Sir Oswald Birley. We know that the paintings were painted around February 18, 1924 to March of 1924, because both Birley & Duveen signed their names to Mr. Huntington’s Library “Guest Register” (located in the Large Library in the Huntington Mansion at the San Marino Ranch at the time). It was recorded on Monday, Feb. 18, 1924, that “Sir Joseph Duveen, New York & Oswald Birley, London” signed this document. Also, we know that these two men were house guests of the Huntington’s are the Ranch. It was February & March of 1924 perH. E. Huntington’s brother-in-law journals. Document: Mr. Huntington’s Guest Register, no call number at the Huntington Library, San Marino, CA; HEH Coll. MS 10968 (E. Burke Holliday’s journals)

“Callers” were guests to someone’s home in the Victorian & Edwardian days. Usually for a chat & a cup of tea. Leaving their calling card in a special calling card silver dish by the front door. The Huntingtons were very hospitable people & probably invited these “callers” to afternoon tea. Photo Credit: Nancy Armitage

This straight forward depiction of older Mrs. Arabella Huntington is really not Birley’s fault. Somewhere in the Huntington Mansion, Mrs. Huntington sat for this serious portrait; she is 63 years old at the time. Maybe, the painter set her up in the Dining Room or the Large Library, both of these rooms were decorated in green & gold; the painting has green velvet curtains behind her. In the painting, Arabella was a seated in a French Louis XVI chair; similar to the ones located in her Large Drawing Room. This portrait painting of Mrs. Huntington is so very dark and black. She had a long black dress with a large Edwardian black hat with her grey-white hair peeking out. The hat looks like a Edwardian touring car hat, with lots of folds of fabric. Securing the hat on her head is a lace bow tied the hat under her chin.

Mrs. Arabella Huntington is wearing black round glasses & black lace Victorian 1/2 gloves. Mrs. Huntington loved driving in their numerous automobiles on the San Marino Ranch & around Los Angeles County & on her travels. In the early 1900’s, there are some funny stories by the Huntington’s butler: Alfonzo Gomez. One was in Paris , France, Archer & Arabella Huntington got stopped in their automobile for going too fast. Another story was written up in New York Times, about Mrs. Collis Huntington coachmen got stopped for going too fast, there’s was a pattern here. So maybe the Touring Car hat is a nod to Arabella’s adventurous side and her love of getting out in the fresh air and to go driving in the automobile. Document: HEH Coll. HEH MS 19 1-18 uncat (Alfonso Gomez’s interviews – HEH Bio file)

But their was a hiccup with Mrs. Huntington’s Birley portrait, she didn’t like Birley’s 1st attempt of her image. She thought the artist made her look too young & too beautiful. BTW, this is usually the request of Gilded Age wealthy American sitters!! She said something to the effect: People will laugh at me for my foolishness, please start again. This was a woman that I thought didn’t give a hoot of what people thought about her!! So this information really surprised me. So she asked Sir Birley to start over on another portrait. Which means that the “1st attempt” of Mrs. Huntington could still be floating around?? Did the Huntingtons buy the first attempt painting? The younger prettier version of Arabella?? Where is it? Has anyone ever looked up in the Attic of the Huntington Mansion ?? Or maybe the painting is stuck in a corner in the basement of the Library Building? I wonder where that first attempt of Mrs. H. E. “Arabella” Huntington’s portrait is?

What is interesting about this timing during April & May of 1924, there were a steady stream of “callers” & guests that came to the Huntington Mansion, several in a week’s time. They came to intimate luncheons, dinners, & afternoon tea. Many of these guests signed Mr. Huntington’s Guest Register located in the Large Library. When the Mr. & Mrs. Huntington portraits were finished, both of these portrait paintings were located in the Large Library of the Huntington Mansion (on easels per the Huntington Mansion Inventory). Document: HEH Coll. HEH 38/6 [Huntington Mansion Inventory Brown Book; probably written by curators in 1927, when HEH died].

On Monday, June 16, 1924, “Edwards [HEH] & Belle [ADH] left their San Marino home to go to NY”. They would board their private train cars: “San Marino I” & “San Marino II” travel across the country to New York City. It would take them about 1 week to get to NYC. Document: HEH Coll. MS10968 uncat (E. Burke Holladays journals-HEH’s brother in law) This would be the last day Arabella Huntington was ever was on the San Marino Ranch in California (June 16, 1924).

Mrs. Henry E. Huntington (Arabella) portrait painting by Sir Oswald Birley of London, England. The Huntington’s commissioned this artist to paint both of their portraits in the Spring of 1924. The commission was made thru Duveen; he got a cut of the commission. Both Birley & Duveen were house guests of the Huntington’s at their mansion for a couple of months during this time period. Photo credit: Nancy Armitage at Huntington Library, San Marino, Calif.

We know that Mr. H. E. Huntington’s painting was paid for through Duveen Brothers in August 17, 1924. (It mentions that fact in Huntington Mansion Inventory Book). I’m sure Duveen got some kind of commission for the introduction to Mr. & Mrs. Huntington. Mrs. Huntington’s portrait painting is dark & sort of scary of the grand women, that did so many great & nice things for society.

Portrait of “Mrs. Collis Huntington” in 1882 by Alexandre Cabanel, painted in Paris, France. Collis Huntington & Arabella Worsham didn’t get married until 1884. This portrait was painted in France, was shipped to the states. It hung at the Collis & Arabella Huntington Mansion in 1880’s in NYC then 1895 hung in the their Nob Hill mansion in San Francisco, CA Now, this original painting used to be located at the Fine Art Museums of San Francisco, DeYoung Museum, then it went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, NY.

San Francisco Nob Hill Mansion (4 portraits of Mrs. Collis P. Huntington- Arabella)

The paintings “pictures” that Arabella Huntington sat for a portrait – how many were there? maybe 4-6 paintings. In her San Francisco mansion, we know that 4 paintings were in that house. We know that one of them was Mrs. Huntington life-sized portrait in the red dress (above). Another portrait that was saved was Mr. Collis P. Huntington portrait by Keith. The Huntington Nob Hill mansion was completely destroyed & leveled in April of 1906 in the Great SF- EQ Fire. But some of the Huntington loyal servants saved several of Mrs. Huntington’s paintings, including the one above.

1. Life-size huge 1882 portrait of Mrs. Arabella Worsham/Mrs. Collis Huntington by Alexandre Cabanel in long multi-folded velvety red dress with black lace. Cabanel was a very famous French portrait artist, who painted Napoleon III and many other wealthy people. These multi-fold Victorian dress is a sign of great wealth. She had a pink Victorian fan in one hand and a pink wrap folded over the chair, maybe to attend a opera. Arabella is standing above a beautiful French Louis XVI chair probably needlepointed. The French artist, Cabanel, painted this portrait as a oil on canvas in Paris, France. By 1895, this portrait hung at the Collis Huntington’s mansion at 1020 California Street (Nob Hill) San Francisco, CA; saved by Mrs. Huntington’s loyal servant staff during the SF EQ-Fire. This image shows a very regal Arabella Worsham (Collis & Arabella were not married until 1884). This portrait used to be located at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, CA It was a gift to the museum from Mr. Archer M. Huntington (Arabella Huntington’s son) in 1940. But, now it is located at the Metropolitan Museum of Art-included in Worsham-Rockefeller Dressing Room 1881-1882 in NYC, NY. It also might be moved to the Virginia Museum of Fine Art in Richmond, VA. Mrs. Arabella Yarrington Worsham Huntington, actually lived in Richmond, VA as a young girl. This painting actually came to the Huntington Library for the “Belle of San Marino” exhibition in 2008.

2nd. painting could have been a portrait of Mrs. Collis P. Huntington (Arabella) by portrait painter: Muller-Fry. There is proof that Muller-Fry painted this portrait on the artist’s website that a portrait was painted by him of “Mrs. Collis P. Huntington” (no image is included). He painted wealthy American ladies & gentlemen in a stylized way similar to John Singer Sargent. Often, Muller-Fry drew a portrait in charcoal or pastel, then he sometimes painted 2 or3 oil paintings of the same subject. Mrs. Havermeyer on Muller-Fry’s website has 5 portraits made. This portrait of Mrs. Collis Huntington (Arabella) by Muller-Fry might have gotten destroyed at the Huntington’s Nob Hill Mansion in 1906. Document.

3rd could possibly be a young portrait painting of Arabella Worsham Huntington or “Belle Worsham” by Daniel Huntington. I saw 4 pencil drawings by him of “Bella Worsham”, one is standing, one is sitting, & one has examples of her hands on the side. She is wearing a long Victorian dress with a square neck line. Maybe these pencil drawings were the beginning of a painting by Daniel Huntington? Document: Alamy

and 4th portrait ??? Must have been lost in the SF EQ-Fire in 1906. In the Huntington Mansion on San Marino Ranch there is a Zorn etching document but no information. Zorn painted similar to John Singer Sargent were either in etching, pastel, or oil, he also did portraits. Zorn would often create a black & white etching of a sitter (very expressive & scratchy) & then paint a pastel or a oil on canvas. Zorn made his reputation painting grand portraits of many different wealthy Gilded Age people like President Taft, Isabella Gardner (1894), & Auguste Rodin. Document: HEH Coll HEH 38/6 uncat [Huntington Mansion Inventory] at Huntington Library, San Marino, CA

or could have Mrs. Arabella Huntington have been painted by the very theatrical Giovanni Boldini (Portrait painter)?? Boldini lived & rented a art studio at 11 Place Pigalle by Montmartre in Paris. Remember Arabella spent many years in Paris in the early 1900’s. She lived there for months at a time in 1900,1901, 1902, 1903. Arabella & her son, Archer & his 1st wife Helen Huntington actually spent Christmas of 1903 in Paris; didn’t come until the winter of 1904. Sometimes, she stayed at the Paris Ritz, Hotel Continental, or Hotel Bristol. Boldini had a “Belle Epoque” style to his elegant portraits. He made his women look very sensual & voluminous. In 1890’s, Boldini painted one of Arabella’s dear friends : Harriet Valentine Crocker Alexander (daughter of Charles Crocker). Boldini painted many wealthy socialite like Edith Vanderbilt (1900), Mademoiselle de Nemidoff, Duchess of Marlborough, Portrait of Countess Zichy (1905) & Mrs. Howard Johnson.

Many of Boldini’s portraits don’t even have the names of the subject: like “Portrait of a Lady” (1912) located at the Brooklyn Museum, anonymous gift. Or “Miss Bell” (1903 located at the Musei di Genova supposedly was a actress named Miss Bell). The “Spanish Dancer” (1904) oil on canvas was a very simplistic one Boldini painted, seem to use this image often. It could have been any woman sitter with a black hat & black dress or oil on canvas called “Black Sash” circa 1905.

Painting by Giovanni Boldini, the pastel on linen is titled “Le Femme au Chapeau Noir” in French meaning (Lady in the Black Hat). I think it is Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington circa 1880’s or 1890’s!! Look at the similarity to the Arabella painting by Cabenal above. The location of this 15″ x 24″ sketchy pastel is in a private collection.

One amazing portrait by Boldini (above) was named “Le Femme au Chapeau Noir” (Women with a Black Hat). This pastel painting is so close to Mrs. Arabella Huntington’s image it is unbelievable!! In my opinion – it is Mrs. Collis P. Huntington (Arabella)! For sure!! I am not a curator, but I am a artist-painter. It was probably painted in Paris because of the original name. The piece is “Pastel on Linen” & the size of the original is 15″x 24″. This is a amazing likeness to Arabella, in a Victorian black day dress with ruffles down her shirt. She looks to be out antiquing or shopping or having tea at the Paris Ritz Hotel. Boldini did a beautiful quick detail sketch, the lady has red hair (Arabella had red hair) & long fashionable black hat with flowers on top & a high neck ruffled black dress. What a stunning portrait!!

Mrs. C.ollis P. Huntington (Arabella) in the San Francisco Call Newspaper 1900. After Collis died & who was going to inherit his grand fortune? The Huntingtons were often front page news in NYC, SF, & LA.. She wears a amazing beaded or sequence & lace gown. Notice no jewelry at all.

Sculpture of Mrs. Henry E. Huntington (Arabella): 1917 San Marino Ranch, Calif.

There were 2 bust sculptures (plaster) created of Mr. & Mrs. H. E. Huntington (Arabella & Edwards). These were created at the Huntington Mansion at the San Marino Ranch in Calif. They were created by Prince Paul Troubetskoy, a sculptor, in August of 1917. One sculpture of “Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington” signed by Paul Troubetzkoy 1917; it was 16″ high.

In the Mansion, Mrs. Huntington bust was located on the 2nd floor in the South Sitting Room which was also Mr. Huntington’s Sitting room (located on the west side of the green “Aviary” tiled floor). In the mansion inventory, this small bust of Arabella was also labeled “E” for Estate, which means it probably went to Archer M. Huntington – (Arabella’s son). So where is this bust of Mrs. Arabella Huntington?? HEH’s bust was located in Mr. H. E. “Edwards” Huntington’s Small Library or “Office”. It was listed in the Huntington Mansion brown book inventory list (which I think was compiled in 1927 when Mr. Huntington died) I don’t know. Document: HEH Coll. MS 38/6 uncat [Huntington Mansion Inventory Brown book- created possibly 1927] at the Huntington Library San Marino, CA I can not located Mrs. Huntington’s bust.

Sketches of Arabella Worsham by Daniel Huntington:

I found several pencil sketches 4 in all: (3 are standing portrait; 1 is seated portrait) of Arabella Worsham or “Bella Worsham” by Daniel Huntington (who was a relation of Collis Huntington). She is in a fitted elegant Gilded Age gown with a square neck, showing her lovely figure, & there is also close up drawings of her arms & hands. Daniel Huntington was a wonderful painter, this could have been a sketch of a future painting (s). Time period: Arabella was Arabella Worsham from 1870’s to 1884, in 1870 she was 20 years old, so the sketch is during that time. I found these sketches on the Alamy website.

Mrs. Arabella D.Huntington’s Tiaras:

A picture speaks 1000 words: Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington where was she in this photograph??: She was probably in Paris, or England (European Tour) or maybe NYC. Did she meet the King & Queen of England?? or the President of the United States? Notice Mrs. Huntington’s stunning Diamond tiara with lots of diamonds, probably 50 or more diamonds. She also wears 6 strands of white pearls & large white pearl earrings. Original photograph is at Hispanic Society of America, NYC.

This is the photograph that keeps me up at night. Where was Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington located? Who took this photograph? Who made that tiara for her? Tiffany & Co.? or Cartier? Where was she going ? to a Fancy Dress Ball or the Patriach’s Ball in New York City? How old is Arabella Huntington is this photograph? I think around 45-50 yrs. Could she have attended a special ball in London? It’s possible…Remember her daughter-in-law was Royalty: Princess Clara Huntington von Hatzfeldt married to Prince Francis von Hatzfeldt . Clara Huntington was the adopted daughter to Collis Huntington, but she was actually his niece. Arabella Huntington could have met the King & Queen of England after this photo was taken? Was she going to meet the President of the United States? This is all possible….Mrs. Arabella Huntington knew 3 of the Unites States Presidents: President Taft, President Theodore Roosevelt, & President Ulysses S. Grant. In fact, Collis & Arabella Huntington gave dinner parties in honor of presidents at their New York mansion. That is why in 1903, the magazine Architectural Record Magazine photographed her Mrs. Collis P. Huntington “State Dining-Room” (the only other state dining-room was the White House in Washington, DC) in their No. 2 East 57th Street NYC -Huntington Mansion.

Mrs. Arabella Huntington’s tiaras Photographed:

We know that Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington owned several elegant tiaras because we can see them in some of these Arabella portraits in photographs. Photographed in the black & white photos between 1890’s & 1920’s. There were several tiaras in these photographs, at least 3-4 of them. Someone’s theory was that Mrs. Huntington’s tiaras were stolen in her State room (Cabin) on a Cunard or French ship on her yearly European tour. Often, Mr. & Mrs. H. E. Huntington never left their “State Room” on the ships. The would pay for these large suites on the elegant ships with dining rooms & sitting rooms. This theory is difficult for me to believe. She traveled with a large entourage of loyal servants & employees: private secretary, cooks, personal ladies maid, & chauffeur. The Huntington’s servant staff were super loyal to this woman. If fact, there is a lot of missing information about Arabella Huntington-because her staff was so very loyal to her. I have no idea where any of her tiaras are. Arabella’s tiaras are not listed in her gigantic collection of jewels, because I was able to view that huge jewelry list (Check below) . Document: HEH Coll. HEH 37/1-18 (Arabella Huntington jewelry list) at Huntington Library San Marino, CA

Mrs. Ccllis Huntington (Arabella) seated & reading a book. Located at the Newport Dock & Shipyards Co. in Newport News, Virginia- which the Huntiington family owned. The original of this photograph is located at the Hispanic Society of America. The first time I saw this photo was in the Evans book , a small biography on the Huntingtons. Looking closer at this photo, she has a small tiara on her head; it looks like it might have diamonds on it & she is wearing black pearl earrings. The tiara actually looks like the one below, depicting Arabella Huntington with Spanish dress on. So this Huntington tiara could have gone down with the great SF1906 EQ/Fire that leveled the Huntington Mansion on Nob Hill in San Francisco, CA.

Arabella Huntington & her Tiaras

  1. Grand Diamond Tiara with more then 50 diamonds (could have been created by her favorite jewelers: Cartier or Tiffany & Co). There is a center diamond cluster shaped like a diamond with 16 diamonds & two side cluster of diamonds (one on the left & one on the right) with 15 or more diamonds. There are 3 or more large diamonds on the sides. She had a large collection of loose diamonds from Collis Huntington Gold Rush days. Here a story of some of the Huntington loose diamonds: In the 1890’s while Collis Huntington was the President of Southern Pacific RR Co. ) formerly Union Pacific RR Co. He hosted a grand annual fancy dinner (16 courses) for his top executives & employees of the ships, ferries, & numerous railroad companies. On one of the Huntington’s menu (SPRRCO.) banquet dinners actually had a painting/drawing of railroad car engine with a real diamond glue as the light on the locomotive to the menu!!! A actually diamond!! About 110 gentlemen executives were invited to this grand 16-course dinner in San Francisco. I hope all the gentlemen actually saw the menu & the diamond! I’ve witnessed men not even paying attention to the menus at formal dinner parties before. What a souvenir they got that evening!! So Arabella had access to a lot of loose diamonds; she could have made jewelry or tiaras from these Gold Rush diamonds.
Here is a different tiara which could be jet black with diamonds added? She also has black pearl earrings instead of her usual white pearl earrings. Mrs. Collis Huntington & her infamous “Spanish Dinners” on Nob Hill San Francisco, CA. Original black & white photograph is located at the Huntington Library, San Marino, CA

Spanish Dinners Tiara (my name) Huntington Mansion, Nob Hill, San Francisco, CA

Mrs. Collis Huntington was famous for her “Spanish Dinners” she hosted at the Huntington Mansion on Nob Hill in San Francisco, CA. In 1899, she was written up in the San Francisco Newspaper – that she started a fad!! How she decorated for these unusual “Spanish Dinners” & the delicious food she served her guests. She was a trendsetter & “a influencer” of her time in San Francisco 1890’s!!

The Los Angeles Herald Newspaper No. 52 Nov. 21, 1899 writes praising Mrs. Huntington: “Giving Spanish Dinners: Mrs. Collis P. Huntington [Arabella] started the Fad – What to serve: In San Francisco the fad is Spanish Dinners. This was instituted by a magnificent dinner given by Mrs. Collis P. Huntington to some New York friends, & since this splendid affair a great many women all over the Union, seeking a change from the conventional, have followed in her footsteps. And Spanish dinners are de rigueur.” At these Spanish dinners she decorated with travel treasures of beautiful handmade baskets, flags, pottery, corn husks, and wrapping of claret bottles. She decorated with colorful flowers like red geraniums, nasturtiums, red carnations, & probably red roses. At the Huntington Spanish dinners -they served tamales, Mexican rice with delicious desserts of Spanish Flan & Bonbons Boxes (souvenir of elegant French Chocolates) & a rich Mexican chocolate drink with cinnamon & whipped cream, Mexican nectarine dulce. With Spanish musicians playing for the guests & dancing, all had great fun.

San Francisco did embrace Mrs. Collis Huntington (Arabella) unlike New York City. She had many “At-Homes” tea gatherings with 50 & more people, documented in the 1890’s. Here she is.. (above) in a Spanish or Mexican long lace dress with a tiara on her head. What kind of tiara was it? Could be Black “Jet” or Tortoise shell, was there diamonds on it?? It looks like there could be at least 10 large diamonds in it. There was tortoise hair combs owned by Mrs. Collis Huntington found at the Museums of Fine Arts/De Young Museum in San Francisco. These were donated by her son, Archer M. Huntington with fancy gold Sevres French knives (with birds & roses). Document: HEH Coll. HEH10968 (Carrie and Burke Holladays Journals)

Mrs. Huntington dressed up for a ball or a Fancy-Dress party. The photograph was taken in 1915; so she would be 65 years old. She actually looks much younger to me, maybe 50 years old. She is wearing a elegant sequined lace black long gown, scooped at the neck. Her hair in a bun; her 3 strands of white pearls sometimes referred to the “Morgan Pearls” & white pearl earrings. She is wearing a diamond tiara but it is very hard to make out. In a 2nd reading, it differently looks like Diamond Tiara. The original photograph is located at the Hispanic Society in New York City.; which is Archer Huntington’s Museum.

This was a later photograph (above), she is about 50 years old (taken between 1913-1923).

A Pearl Tiara: With Baroque Pearls (a favorite of Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington)

A painting of Margherita Gonzaga Princess of Mantua. What a stunning pearl tiara she has on. With many kinds of pearl embellishments. This painting was once owned by Collis & Arabella Huntington & located at their NYC Mansion. It is now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC, (Collis help start that museum, donating great amounts of paintings, many were donated after Arabella Huntington died in 1924 by Archer Huntington.)

Did you know that Mr. & Mrs. Collis Huntington owned this amazing painting (Above) of Margherita Gonzaga, Princess of Mantua. It hung at their mansion at No. 2 East 57th Street in New York City. Mrs. Huntington in my opinion probably picked this painting to buy… but she gets no credit for that. She had a collection of paintings that were on different royalty. She also liked to collect jewelry of royalty also, like Empress Eugenie of France.

Mrs. Huntington adored pearls of any kind. In her Jewelry Collection, she owned Baroque Pearls, Tahitian Pearls, Fresh-Water Pearls, & Black Pearl necklace (she wears in her San Marino Ranch portrait – with black pearls as “big as a thumb!”- her daughter- in- law Leslie (Mrs. Howard Huntington) once wrote in a letter to one of HEH’s daughters.

Lady Jane Wilde (mother of Oscar Wilde) portrait drawing wearing a elaborate tiara & diamonds draped in her hair. Check out the elegant adornment by strands of diamonds or pearls in her hair. This could be done by using jewels in a wealthy women jewelry box. Check Mrs. Huntington jewelry list (below) especially Item 70: a long chain of 870 diamonds or Item 120 long necklace with 223 diamonds.

Mrs. Huntington did enjoy buying jewels of royalty. There was a interesting Tiffany & Co. invoice of Mrs. Arabella Huntington mounted at the Belle of San Marino exhibition 2006. It read: Tiffany & Co. Paris. Invoice Date: Jan. 2, 1912 Date of purchase: October 28, 1911 Madame C. P. Huntington bought Emerald & Diamond Brooch for $100,000 Francs. After this show, I was in the Huntington Library, I was in the reference library/art books & picked up a coffee table book called: Tiffanys 150 years. On one of the pages, it showed Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III (Princess Brooch), is was a Emerald & Diamond Brooch, Flat Emerald of 150 karats. I thought of something I read in Mrs. Arabella Huntington’s jewelry collection. On page 7, Item 68 of jewelry list: Platinum Large Cluster Brooch. 1 large faceted Flat Emerald in center weighs 150 Karats & 145 diamonds with a total weight of diamonds of 7 karats, valued at $15,000.00. Boy, did the jewelry appraisers get that one wrong. I think we have connected the dots that Mrs. Huntington owned a Emerald & Diamond Brooch once owned by Empress Eugenie of France. Document: HEH Coll. HEH 37/1-18 uncat [papers of Mrs. Arabella Huntington including large jewelry list].

Did Mrs. Collis Huntington have a Pearl Tiara or Large Baroque Pearl Necklace? In Harry Winston’s biography it is said that, in 1925 he bought all of Mrs. Arabella Huntington’s grand jewelry collection. If you google: “Mrs. Huntington & Harry Winston”.- a certain “Pearl Panure” fabulous necklace always comes up, often. A wonderful mixture of Large Diamond & Pearls – could this necklace actually have been a Tiara owned by Mrs. Arabella Huntington?? It looks like a necklace but it you turn it upside down maybe a tiara?? When Arabella died in 1924, her daughter-in-law: Mrs. Archer Huntington – Archer’s 2nd wife -(Ana Hyatt- the famous sculptress) didn’t want any of Arabella Huntington Grand Jewelry Collection. Ana thought is was very gaudy & large; didn’t want any part of it. So Archer Huntington her son, sold her entire jewlery collection to Harry Winston. We know by Mrs. Huntington’s will that about 3-4 items from Mrs. Huntington’s Jewelry list was willed to her nieces, several brooches. Document: HEH Coll. MS 38/6 uncat (Arabella D. Huntington’s will) at Huntington Library San Marino, CA

The Brooch-built Tiara

I have seen demonstrated that clever jewelers like Tiffany & Co. and Cartier & others have made tiaras that have brooches snapped into them a main tiara head band. Some I’ve seen take 1 jeweled brooch that is snapped in the middle & 2 jeweled earrings snapped on each side to make up a fancy diamond tiara. Very Clever! Check Jackie Kennedy Diamond Sunburst brooch she wore as a hair piece in the 1960’s. Some of Mrs. Arabella Huntington’s jewelry list even mention a “snap” – to snap it in place on a tiara. I wonder if her tortoise shell hair combs could have been adorned with some of her jewelry, also? Other tiaras are a necklaces turned upside down & attached to a tiara base. These were clever solutions, so the wealthy clients could use their diamond brooches all year long, not just at the Fancy-Dress balls a couple times a year.

Here are some items that could have possibly been the ingredients to a Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington’s Tiaras from her extensive New York City jewelry list: This amazing jewelry (partial) list of Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington was probably compiled between the 1880’s-1920’s for insurance purposes. Not a lot of details, but it still is very interesting.

Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington Jewelry List (Partial List): Note: these prices are most likely estimated in 1924, the year that Mrs. Huntington died.

Item 62: Gold & Platinum mounted, Large Sunburst Brooch, containing 145 Round Diamonds & old mine diamonds (Weight: 70 karats) $23,000.00

[Item 65]: Pair gold & silver mounted antique earrings: 66 Pear-shaped diamonds & old mine diamonds (10 karats) 4 flat Ceylon sapphires (approx. 14 carats) $1,600.00

[Item 67]: Gold mounted Bar Brooch with containing 1 lg. Cabochon Emerald (12 Karats) & 16 Rose Diamonds $3,500.00

[Item 70]: Platinum mounted necklace with 7 faceted Emeralds (Total weight 110 karats) with 830 Diamonds (Total weight 26 Karats) $18,500.00

Folio 22

[Item: 71:] Platinum & Diamond Festoon Necklace containing Cluster of Oriental Rubies (poor quality) at (83 Karats) with small diamond (23 Karats) $5,000.00

Folio 23

[Item 72]: Gold-mounted long chain containing 119 Diamonds (Total weight: approx. 318 karats) $135,275.00

[Item 74]: Antique Gold & Silver mounted necklace with 236 old mine diamonds (34 karats) and 17 Ceylon Sapphires (poor quality) $2,250.00

Folio 24

[Item 75] Gold & Platinum mounted Heart-shaped Pendant with one octagonal faceted Emerald in the center (25 Karats) & 30 diamonds (6 Karats) $9,000. 00

[Item 78]: Gold & Platinum Mounted flexible Bracelet containing 175 Diamonds (23 karats) with octagon-shaped Emerald in center (weight approx. 8 Karats) $6,650.00

Folio 26

[Item 80]: Gold & Platinum mounted chain bracelet with set of 6 oval Oriental Pearls (total (weight 132 grams) 72 Diamonds (7 1/4 karats) $4,600.00

[Item 81]: Gold & Platinum mounted necklace containing 9 round Oriental Gray-Black Pearls & 1 Pear-shaped (275 grams), 24 Marquise shaped Diamonds (30 karats) & 25 round diamonds (6 Karats) #28,000.00

Folio 28

[Item 85]: Platinum Mounted Oriental Pearl Pendant in form of a tassel containing 22 strands of graduated oriental pearls & 106 sm. diamonds (1 1/2 karats) one larger pearl at top. $550.00

[Item 115:] Canary Diamond: Gold & Platinum mounted pendant drop containing 1 large marquise shape Canary Diamond (12 karats) & 2 white Marquise shape diamonds (1 1/4 karats & 19 small diamonds (1/2 karat) $6,200.00

[Item 120:] Platinum Necklace mounted with Black Onyx circles & studded with 223 Diamonds (Total weight approx 11 karats) $1,000.00

This list ended at Item 120 & many of Mrs. Huntington’s jewels (from invoices found) are not on this jewelry list. In 1925, all Mrs. Arabella Huntington jewelry was sold to Harry Winston in New York City by her son, Archer Huntington. Document: HEH Coll. HEH 37/1-18 uncat [Mrs. Arabella D. Huntington jewelry list – date probably between 1880’s-1920’s, most likely 1924 the year she died] Jewelry list found at the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA

One of the murals that used to hang in the Huntington Mansion at No.2 East 57th Street in NYC. It is said that this is a portrait of Mrs. Arabella Huntington. The theme is electricity & science. Now these murals are now located at Yale University.

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