Life Insurance Exec Portraits from Smithsonian being offered through Pook & Pook

Bidding for this Mad Men-era portrait starts at just $25

Scrolling through the upcoming auctions last night on LiveAuctioneers, I noticed several portraits being offered were the property of the North American Life Insurance Company. I was unfamiliar with it, but apparently it combined with Connecticut General to form CIGNA. The history dates back to Philadelphia in the 1790s.

Portraits of life insurance executives are not likely to be big winners in the market, which makes me think what a shame it is to have them out of the hands of this important American company. It would appear from the listing they had previously been donated to the Smithsonian and are now being offered through Pook & Pook.

Some have connections to other museums.

Lot 154 American oil on panel portrait of Isaac Perkins says the verso reads Fogg Art Museum Loan. All identify the sitter and some identify the artist. Some are excellent examples of early American portraiture including Lot 153, American oil on canvas portrait of Colonel Charl.

One of the works, lot 140, is by Edmund Charles Tarbell, an important Boston School impressionist painter. It’s estimated at only $2,000 to $4,000. Tarbell painted Benjamin Rush, tenth President, 1916-1939 and first Chairman of the Board, 1939-1948. Tarbell is known to paint domestic interiors with female figures. He also painted Henry Clay Frick.

Another impressionist painter, William McGregor Paxton, Charles Stuart Packard, Director of the Insurance Company from 1901-1937. Paxton gained fame for his portraiture and painted both Grover Cleveland and Calvin Coolidge. He taught at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School from 1906 to 1913. Paxton was made a full member of the National Academy of Design in 1928.

There’s also a painting by James Reid Lambdin a portrait of William H. Trotter, Director of the Insurance Company of North America, 1873-1898. Lambdin was the father of George Corchoran Lambdin, the notable American painter of floral still lifes. There’s a work by Lambdin the Senior in the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh.

Portrait by Edmund Charles Tarbell

Some of the portraits start as low as $25.

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