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updated February 12, 2005
Clarence Mackay's Art, Armor & Tapestry
   Clarence Mackay was a collector of fine art in a category equivalent to that of other American multi-millionaires of his day such as Morgan, Frick, Huntington, Wiedener, Bache, Mellon and Kress. All of these collectors had a two things in common.  They were rich beyond an ordinary person's comprehension and they were all clients of Joseph Duveen, "the most spectacular art dealer of all time" (S.N. Behrman).
    The two paintings and the King Arthur tapestry below as well as the three magnificent suits of armor on the next page were among the "cream of the crop" in Clarence Mackay's collections but were sold by him to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City in July of 1932. This sale helped him get through his most serious personal financial crisis (1932-1933) of the Great Depression (1929-1941).
The images below are displayed courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Adoration of the Shepards, shortly after 1450
Andrea Mantegna (Italian, Paduan, born no later than 1430, died 1506)
Purchase, Anonymous Gift, 1932 (32.130.2)
The Agony in the Garden, predella panel
Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio or Santi) (Italian, Marchigian, 1483-1520)
Funds from various donors, 1932 (32.130.1)
An article in the March 27, 1933 issue of Time Magazine, stated,

     "Herbert Eustis Winlock, Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, had news for the press last week: the Museum had bought  two paintings [seen above as well as] three historic suits of armor [
next page]; two belonging to Queen Elizabeth's friends, the Earls of Pembroke and Cumberland, the third to Anne de Montmorency, Constable of France; the finest sword the museum has ever owned, that of Ambrosio di Spinola, the General of Velazquez's famed Surrender of Breda (The Lances); and the only known 14th Century tapestry depicting King Arthur [left]. These purchases were from Clarence Mackay, Postal Telegraph Chairman and father-in-law of wealthy composer Irving Berlin.

     At the time of the purchase (secretly made eight months ago), Mr. Mackay resigned as a trustee of the Museum. Either because he was attempting to deny that Clarence Mackay needed the money, or to reassure bankers who are supposed to have lent much money on the security of the Mackay art collection, Director Winlock added a statement to last week's announcement:

       'I understand that Mr. Mackay has parted with nothing
       else, and as far as I am aware, the acquisition of these
       objects by the Museum does not indicate in any way an
       intention on his part to break up his collection."

[Actually, Mr. Mackay  resigned  as a trustee to avoid conflict of interest.  He could not be both a seller to the museum and a trustee involved in approving the museum's purchase of his art, armor and tapestry.]
King Arthur, ca. 1400-1410
South Netherlandish
Munsey Fund, 1932 (32.130.3a, b)
    Meryle Secrest's book, Duveen, A Life in Art, published by Alfred A. Knopf, Random House in 2004, contains a 95 page list that she has titled, "Paintings, Sculpture, and Objects Sold or Donated by Joseph Duveen, 1900-1939: A Partial List".  A careful review of this partial list shows Clarence Mackay purchasing 27 paintings, sculptures, busts, and reliefs from Duveen (mostly during the 1920s).  This partial list does not include any of his world-class collection of medieval armor and arms.
    After the death of Mr. Mackay in November 1938, much of his art, armor and tapestry collection was consigned for sale to the firm of Jacques Seligmann & Company acting as agents for the executors of his estate.  Samuel L. Kress bought the majority of his art collection and subsequently donated many items to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
    Stuart Pyhrr, present curator and head of the Arms and Armor Department, Metropolitan Museum of Art, states in his outstanding article, "Clarence H. Mackay as an Armour Collector", that by far the largest number of Mackay's arms sold to a single individual went to Stephen Grancsay, curator of arms and armor at that time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Mr. John Woodman Higgins of Worcester, Massachusetts bought more than twenty of Mackay's armors through Seligmann.  Today, many of these items of can be seen on display at the Higgins Armory Museum in Worcester. Continue on in this section to view samples of Mackay items in the Higgins Armory Museum courtesy of the curator.

     Much of Mr. Mackay's armor collection can be viewed in its original setting inside his Harbor Hill mansion by visiting the Smithsonian Institute collection of 81 Harbor Hill photos at
siris-archives.si.edu/ (search for Clarence Mackay)(photos 7-17 show numerous suits of armor and at least three armored knights on horseback).
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