The Stotesbury Art Collection

Vaches Allant au Champ (Vaches Allant aux Champs)

(Cows Going to the Field)

also known as

Retour a la Ferme (Return to the Farm)

(So which direction are they going, anyway?)

 

by
Constant Troyon

Found at last!!

When E.T. Stotesbury purchased this painting in 1907 for $65,000, it was the highest price ever paid for any European painting at an American sale. Although this record was broken soon thereafter, at that time this purchase caused a huge sensation. The New York Times ran a front page article on the sale of the painting, with a full page color image of the painting on the inside of that edition. But tastes changed soon thereafter, and Sir Joseph Duveen convinced E.T. Stotesbury to dispose of most of his impressive collection in favor of English Old Master portraits. Stotesbury could not find a buyer for this magnificent painting until 1937, when he sold it for about 5% of what he paid for it. And then it disappeared for many years.

In an effort to locate this painting, I even sent the 1859 - 1937 provenance information about it to Michel Schulman in France, who is writing a Catalogue Raisonne on all of Troyon's known works. Finally in 2014, I was able to track down this painting at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University, where it had been since 1956. The painting is currently being restored, and soon it will be displayed in a recently completed addition to the Museum there.

Retour a la Ferme

The painting as shown in the 1893 Hustin book

Retour a la Ferme 1937

The painting as portrayed for the Stotesbury sale in 1937

Dimensions: Height 51 and 1/2 inches; Width 39 inches

Provenance:

  • 1859--Painted by Troyon and named "Vaches Allant au Champ"
  • 1860 (?)--Sold to a private collector in St. Petersburg, Russia (it subsequently was known informally as "The St. Petersburg Troyon")
  • 1886 (or prior to that)--Purchased by Charles Morgan of New York prior to his death in 1879, or purchased after that by his widow
  • 1886--Sold under the name of "Le Retour a la Ferme" at the Mary Jane Morgan estate sale managed by the American Art Association at Chickering Hall in New York to Charles Crocker (of the "Big Four" Central Pacific Railroad fame) for $6,550
  • 1888--Sold to Aaron Healy after the death of Charles Crocker on August 15, 1888
  • 1891--Sold for $4,550 at the Aaron Healy estate sale managed by Ortgies & Co. at Chickering Hall in New York
  • 1896--Sold for $24,500 at the William Schaus estate sale managed by the American Art Association at Chickering Hall in New York to Harry S. Henry of Philadelphia
  • 1907--Purchased by E.T. Stotesbury through Hermann Schaus for $65,000 from the Harry S. Henry sale in January 1907
  • 1924--Stotesbury puts the painting--along with many others from his early collection--on consignment with a dealer arranged by Sir Josheph Duveen, and it languishes in storage
  • 1937--Stotesbury sold the painting for $3,500 to C.D. Hasbrouck through an American Art Association-Anderson Galleries auction sale.
  • 1956--Donated to the A.D. White Museum (subsequently the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art) at Cornell University by the estate of Eugenie G. Walker as a gift from Major Theodore Penfield Walker of Blue Hill, Maine. It was appraised at that time for estate purposes at $44,750.
  • 1966--Exhibited on loan to the Lakeview Center for the Arts and Sciences in Peoria, Illinois in a show on the Barbizon School (April 6 to May 16, 1966)
  • Present Location: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

Stotesbury Location(s): 1925 Walnut Street

Sources: Le Magasin Pittoresque 1859; Les Artistes Celebres--Collection Placee par Autorisation Ministerielle du 15 Juillet 1892--Constant Troyon par A. Hustin 1893; " Troyon to Philadelphia" The New York Times, February 17, 1907, page 1; Nineteenth Century Paintings...Property of Mrs. Marion B. Nellis, etc., April 8, 1937, American Art Association-Anderson Galleries Inc., New York; Nancy E. Green, The Gale and Ira Drukier Curator of European and American Art, Prints and Drawings, 1800 - 1945, Herbert F. Johnson Musuem of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.

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