Mrs. William Crowninshield
Endicott Jr.
John Singer Sargent -- American painter  
Private collection 
Oil on canvas
142.2 by 88.5 cm (56 by 35 in.)
signed John S. Sargent and dated 1903, u.l.
 Jpg: Sothebys

From Sothebys:
Marie Louise 'Lulu' Thoron (1864-1958) was the daughter of Joseph and Anna Barker Ward Thoron. In 1889 she married William Crowninshield Endicott, Jr. . . .

Mr. and Mrs. Endicott, Jr. resided with his parents, dividing their time between the family home in Boston and the Peabody family farm, Glen Magna Farms, . . .

One of Sargent's biographers [Charles Merrill Mount], writes that the commission for this portrait "followed on the portrait of Mrs. Endicott, Sr., done the year before in Tite Street [London -- actually it would have been 2 years previous], by all odds one of Sargent's finest achievements. Apparently preferring not to take a studio for the still-undetermined period before he would leave for Washington, he undertook [the painting] in the Endicott's Marlborough Street house. In the drawing room the light did not come from a good direction, and he was told of an empty bedroom on top the house that might suit his needs.

"He went back there for dinner the night before the work was to begin, and found Mrs. Endicott wearing a Worth gown made specially [sic] for the portrait. 'No, that won't do at all,' was his comment, after which fiat he was shown a party dress, which he thought equally inappropriate. 'Haven't you got something black and white?' The result was an old flowered muslin dress, in which the picture was begun the next morning.

"The top floor of the house could be reached by a little open-grilled lift. The room itself was regular in shape, except for the rounded projection of four windows, behind his back and toward his left as he stood before the easel. He had no model stand, so he placed Mrs. Endicott just beyond the last window, where the light hit her well and she was against a shadowed section of the wall. It was not a perfect light, halftones hovering over the face, tones that were a nuisance and difficult to blend into the value scale. He got the hang of it though, and proceeded to make use of this unfortunate feature to give the picture a delicacy of tone that brings an intimacy generally lacking in the more impersonal studio lighting. When he stepped back fifteen feet from the easel his back was pressed against the window casements, and that too limited him, for he did not want to place strong accents without seeing their effect from a greater distance. As always he allowed himself to be guided by the circumstances, turning the difficulties of the situation into strengths, replacing his more accustomed boldness with delicacy, and his strong accents with subtle half tones."

"[Sargent] broke the tragedy of painting her hair gray by saying, 'I'll put some gray in your hair, because it will get gray'; successful in that little ruse, he next determined to add a stylized landscape background, doing it in tones of warm ocher and umber, carrying through, the rich hues of the figure. It was entirely different from his usual product, more intimate, with a most engaging friendly warmth. The hands and draperies were left as improvisations, a flower and a fan were merely indicated for their color, without being brought into focus of making important additions to the composition. In sum it was a large sketch, with all the best of Sargent, in a warm and mellow mood" (Charles Merrill Mount, John Singer Sargent: A Biography, New York, 1955, pp. 240, 244).

In the catalogue raisonné of the artist's work, Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray have noted several references to the painting in Mrs. Endicott's diary: "On 4 March 1903 she wrote 'Mr Sargent came at 12 to see about painting my portrait & left soon after 1.30' and 21 March 1903: 'Mr Sargent came in & staid [sic] about ten minutes to carry away some of his artistic paraphernalia - & signed the portrait'" (John Singer Sargent: The Later Portraits, New Haven, Connecticut, 2003, p. 105). Mrs. Endicott showed her portrait to the critic Henry Adams, who commented in regard to Sargent's recent work "the only considerable one is Lulu's [Mrs. Endicott's nickname] which is a 'very brilliant piece of painting', as I put my defensive armor in words, to keep off criticism. Sargent knows best his own merits and defects" (The Letters of Henry Adams, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1988, vol. V, p. 493).



Mrs. William Crowninshield Endicott, Jr. (acquired directly from the artist)
Mrs. Ewen Cameron MacVeagh (her niece), 1958
Her daughter, 1977
By descent to the present owners


Boston, Massachusetts, Boston Art Museum, June-September 1903
Washington D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art, Second Annual Exhibition, Oil Paintings by Contemporary American Artists, December-January 1908-09, no. 124
Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts, Opening Exhibition, Robert Dawson Evans Memorial Galleries for Paintings, 1915
Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts, Paintings by John Singer Sargent: Bostonian Paintings, May-November 1916
Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts, Memorial Exhibition of the Works of the Late John Singer Sargent, November-December 1925, no. 81 (revised catalogue no. 83)
Boston, Massachusetts, Museum of Fine Arts, A Centennial Exhibition: Sargent's Boston, January-February 1956, no. 34
Santa Barbara, California, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara Collects, January-March 1985


'Art Notes', New York Times (18 June 1903), p. 8
William Howe Downes, John S. Sargent: His Life and Work, Boston, 1925, p. 201
Evan Charteris, John Sargent, London and New York, 1927, p. 270
Charles Merrill Mount, John Singer Sargent: A Biography, New York, 1955, pp. 240, 244, 275, 437
David McKibbin, Sargent's Boston, Boston, Massachusetts, 1956, pp. 47, 94, illustrated fig. 27
Trevor Fairbrother, John Singer Sargent and America, New York, 1986, no. 29, p. 355
Stanley Olson, John Singer Sargents: His Portrait, London, 1986, p. 226
J.C. Levenson et al, eds., The Letters of Henry Adams, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1988, vol. V, p. 493
Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray, John Singer Sargent: The Later Portraits, New Haven, Connecticut and London, 2003, no. 446, pp. 104-5, 291, illustrated in color


Sold Sothebys, New York, May 23rd 2007, Session 1, LOT 7, SALE N08322, Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium:  $2,168,000 USD (Estimated 2,000,000—3,000,000 USD)


  • See the year in review 1903

Ellen Peabody Endicott
(Mother-in-law to Mrs William Crowninshield Endicott Jr)

Created 5/30/2007