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Gilbert Stuart (USA, 1755 - 1828)

Portrait, ca 1794. Oil on canvas laid down on board. 36 x 29 inches (91.4 x 73.6cm)

Provenance: Mrs. Walter Astor Langdon, daughter of the sitter Mrs. Emily Astor Kane Jay By descent in the Astor family to the present owner

John Jacob Astor is among the most important financiers and entrepreneurs in American history- He was the first American millionaire. Born in Waldorf, Germany in 1763, Astor arrived in New York in 1784, opened a small shop and by the late 1780’s was actively trading furs. By 1800 when he had amassed a fortune of over a quarter of a million dollars, he was the acknowledged leader in the American fur trade. Around this time Astor began to trade actively in the Far East and to acquire large tracts of Manhattan real estate, which would become the bulk of the family fortune. By 1834 Astor sold all of his interests in the fur trade and focused his investments on New York real estate. When Astor died in 1848 his net worth was estimated conservatively at $20,000,000. All of his fortune - except $2,000,000 in various bequests and $400,000 to found a library that would become part of the New York Public Library – passed to his son, William Blackhouse Astor. In his day, Washington Irving lauded Astor for his benevolence and public spirit; whereas others were less complementary, and when Astor died in 1848 the New York Times wrote, “ He has exhibited at best but the ingenious powers of a self-invented money-making machine.”

Astor sat for Gilbert Stuart, the most important portrait painter in America, around 1794, a time when Astor’s fortune was growing at an extraordinary pace. This is most likely the only known portrait of Astor by Stuart. The one pictured in Lawrence Park's monograph is not Astor, recently appeared at auction and was returned by the buyer. The example at the Brook is similar to that piece and is likewise not an image of Astor

Accompanied by Dr.Richard McLanathan’s (expert on Gilbert Stuart and author of “Gilbert Stuart – Father of American Portraiture”) “Letter of Authenticity” and research, stating that the great American portraitist Gilbert Stuart accomplished this painting. Also included is an additional document authenticating this painting prepared by the late David Meschutt, the leading expert in American portraiture until his untimely death in 2005.