A Persistent Question – the Library Overmantle

It’s amazing what one can find on on-line auctions! A recent (serendipitous) acquisition is a small souvenir cardboard mailer of 8 miniature photos of Allerton Park. These were printed by the Grogan Photo Company in Danville, Illinois.

Mailer Jacket from Souvenir packet

Mailer Jacket from Souvenir packet

2014 10 23 Mailing Return Side

They were in business in Danville from the late 1930’s to the early 1960’s and offered many photo folios of this sort. The Grogan Photo Company is most known for its souvenir mailers from the late WWII through the 1950’s for G.I’s. stationed in Okinawa. These mailers featured official Marine photos of Okinawa, the military presence there and local sites of interest.

Based upon the furniture arrangement in the accompanying photo, this mailer may date from the early 1950’s. Professor Rexford Newcomb, Dean of University of Illinois Fine Arts introduced Allerton House and Park in a photo brochure dated 1951. A more widely available brochure published in 1951 with text by Par Danforth does not include this same photograph.

Additionally, a photo spread published in the St. Louis Dispatch on August 9, 1964, clearly on microfilm reveals an over mantle that matches the Grogan photo.

What we can conclude from this paper memorabilia, is that the Grogan photo does not date past 1963 since that is when the business closed. What cannot be established is when the present over mantle appeared in photo.

The reader is directed to compare the scanned photo from the Grogan mailer and compare the image to the photo taken of the over mantle currently installed in the Library. Although the painting at Allerton House is dark and dirty with age, it seems clear by comparing the general outline and elements of composition  that the two paintings displayed are not the same.

Archived Emmet letters from the Smithsonian indicate the original over mantle was probably painted by Wilfred de Glehn in 1907. These letters relate Robert Allerton’s commission of an over mantle from Wilfred that year. In 1907, Wilfred’s works were highly influenced by his close friend and fellow artist, John Singer Sargent. The two friends along with Wilfred’s wife, Jane Emmet de Glehn and Sargent’s unmarried sister took a painting trip to Italy that year. Not only the Italian landscape but Sargent’s artistic influence was apparent in Wilfred’s work at the time. Wilfred’s painting style during this time is very impressionistic, and bright with loose and generous paint application.2014 10 23 Grogan Photo Library Overmantle


Overmantle currently on display in the same Library as the previous photo

Overmantle currently on display in the same Library as the previous photo

Compare the two. Also, review other works by Wilfred de Glehn, especially of this same time period and make your own conclusions. This overmantle question was previously posted in December, 2013.

Recently a much smaller oil and impressionistic female subject by Wilfred de Glehn sold at auction for $242,000. Once provenance was established, Wilfred’s over mantle would have a much higher auction estimate because of its size and subject matter.

Are there other photos within the Archives or from the general public that can date the loss of the original painting?  Didn’t anyone notice? Is there documentation of damage or destruction that warranted replacement with this horrible canvas?

Facts remain and the question has been asked: What happened to the original over mantle? When did the switch happen? Why? What does the Allerton House accounts say about this over mantle?

The Archives have not lent a clue.

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