Five-Minute Museum

Hot chicks of the Gilded Age?

Peter Marié's famous miniatures of society beauties -- rejected by the Met in 1903 -- will soon be on display again

  • Mrs.
    New-York Historical Society
    Mrs. William Waldorf Astor (Mary Dahlgren Paul, 1856-1894), ca. 1890.

    Artist: Meave Thompson Gedney (1863-1905).

    A native of Philadelphia, Mary Paul married New Yorker William Waldorf Astor in 1878. In 1882, the Astors moved to Rome after William was appointed American minister to Italy, and they established a residence in England in 1890. Mrs. Astor became a society leader in New York, Rome, and London. She shared her married name with her husband’s aunt and social rival, Mrs. William (Caroline) Astor, the undisputed queen of New York society. Caroline Astor boldly claimed the title of the Mrs. Astor.

    Slide 1

  • Mrs.
    New-York Historical Society
    Mrs. Grover Cleveland (Frances C. Folsom, 1864-1947), 1891.

    Artist: Fernand Paillet (1850-1918).

    Frances Folsom of Buffalo, New York, married President Grover Cleveland at the White House on June 2, 1886. The twenty-one-year-old bride was, and remains, the nation’s youngest first lady. After Cleveland’s defeat in the 1888 presidential election, the couple lived in New York City. “Frank,” as she was known to friends and family, became a leader of New York society and forged important connections that helped return her husband to the White House.

    Slide 2

  • Mrs.
    New-York Historical Society
    Mrs. Arthur Henry Paget (Mary Fiske Stevens, 1853-1919), 1891.

    Artist: Fernand Paillet (1850-1918).

    Posed against a background of palm trees, the Nile River, and distant pyramids, Mrs. Paget is depicted in a stunning masquerade ball costume, dressed as Cleopatra. Mrs. Paget evidently liked dressing as the Egyptian queen, as she donned a similar costume for the famous Devonshire House Ball held in London in 1897. Her gown, supplied by Worth of Paris, glittered with gold and diamonds, and her headdress of rubies and emeralds was surmounted by a jeweled crown. Paillet painted the miniature after this studio photograph.

    Slide 6

  • Lydia
    New-York Historical Society
    Lydia Field Emmet (1866-1952), 1893.

    Artist: Katherine Arthur Behenna (ca. 1860-1924).

    Lydia Emmet was the most accomplished artist of the Emmet family. In 1893, the year this portrait was executed, she was selected to paint murals in the Women’s Building at the World’s Columbian Exposition. Her artistic endeavors also included designing stained glass windows for Louis Comfort Tiffany, producing illustrations for Harper’s Bazaar, and painting an official portrait of the first lady on the commission of President Herbert Hoover.

    Slide 3

  • Mrs.
    New-York Historical Society
    Mrs. Elliott Roosevelt (Anna Hall, 1863-1924), 1893.

    Artist: Katherine Arthur Behenna (ca. 1860-1924).

    Eleanor Roosevelt opened her autobiography with the declaration: “My mother was one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen.” She elaborated, “Old Peter Marié, who gave choice parties and whose approval stamped young girls and young matrons a success, called my mother a queen, and bowed before her charm and beauty, and to her this was important.” Katherine Behenna successfully captured Anna Roosevelt’s beauty and charm in this intimate portrait.

    Slide 4

  • Mrs.
    New-York Historical Society
    Mrs. Bradley Martin (Cornelia F. Sherman, 1843-1920), 1897.

    Artist: Meave Thompson Gedney (1863-1905).

    Mr. and Mrs. Bradley Martin gained notoriety for their lavish masquerade ball held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in 1897. Mr. Martin dressed as Louis XV, while Mrs. Martin presided as Mary, Queen of Scots, in a costume valued at over $400,000. This miniature depicts her in the extravagant ensemble, which included jewels that had once belonged to Empress Josephine of France. The couple endured scathing criticism for holding such a conspicuously excessive event during a time of economic depression. They moved to England to escape the scandal.

    Slide 7

  • Mrs.
    New-York Historical Society
    Mrs. Edwin Main Post (Emily Bruce Price, 1873-1960), 1901.

    Artists: Carl A. (1865-1906) and Fredrika Weidner (b. 1865).

    Emily Price met her future husband, Edwin Main Post, at a ball held at a posh Fifth Avenue mansion. Their disastrous marriage ended in divorce after Mr. Post’s philandering with chorus girls and aspiring actresses became a public scandal. The resourceful Emily Post went on to achieve lasting fame as a public arbiter of etiquette, publishing her first book on the subject in 1922. The Emily Post Institute continues to provide guidance on etiquette and civility in print and online.

    Slide 5

  • Miss
    New-York Historical Society
    Miss Maude Adams (1872-1953), 1902.

    Artist: Clausen Coope (1876-after 1940).

    Legendary stage actress Maude Adams made her Broadway debut in 1888 and achieved greatest acclaim in the role of Peter Pan. As the “Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up,” she appeared in more than 1,500 performances and earned an astronomical $20,000 a month. Adams was rarely seen in public outside the theater, and it is unlikely that Peter Marié knew her personally. He probably commissioned this miniature from a publicity photograph.

    Slide 8