Having been in business for six generations, our family has amassed a number of great stories. Luckily, my grandfather, Robert C. Vose Jr., was an amazing storyteller, and spent the last ten years of his life compiling these stories that have been passed down through the generations. I want to share one of my personal favorites, which illustrates the old adage amongst art dealers, 'You never know what is going to come through the door!' Enjoy!
A young artist friend bought a house in the Adirondacks. While cleaning out the garage, he noticed a huge painting in a very heavy frame, so heavy that he could barely turn the picture to the light. He called Vose Galleries and inquired, "Is there any market for paintings of castles?" We asked him to look for a signature, and he said there was a large tablet on it that said "Cropsey," one of the famous Hudson River School painters.
We urged him to bring the painting to Boston. Little did we realize that he would tie the painting on the top of his car for the journey, but he fortunately arrived without incident. It turned out to be Cropsey’s Spirit of War, his most exhibited and famous painting.
We alerted the National Gallery in Washington, where it now hangs. I’m sure that our artist friend got back much more than he paid for his entire house. In fact, it must have been ten times as much!
The allegorical Spirit of War, along with its companion painting Spirit of Peace, were exhibited seven times between 1852 and 1857. Cropsey based Spirit of War on a poem by Sir Walter Scott, "Lay of the Last Minstrel," which describes the terrors of approaching war. The feudal setting depicts dawn after the enemy has ransacked a village. Defending knights ride forth to do battle, while a goatherd seeks protection from the castle and a mother and child lie by the roadside, exhausted from the carnage.
*These tales and many more are captured in our 150th Anniversary commemorative video, “Tales of An Art Dealer,” 1991. This 30-minute DVD has been aired nationwide on PBS. $25.00 each, proceeds to benefit the Archives of American Art. Please visit www.vosegalleries.com to order a copy.