Provenance Research: Elizabeth A. Brook Weed (Mrs. Robert J. Arundel) Portrait

Jacob Eichholtz, Elizabeth A. Brooke Weed (Mrs. Robert J. Arundel, c. 1828, Private Collection

In June 2013, a woman inherited a portrait given to her physician grandfather, Cyrus W. Truxal, in 1944 by one of his patients, Pauline Rambo (Mrs. Ogden Armstrong). Mrs. Armstrong was a granddaughter of the portrait subject, Elizabeth A. Brook Weed (Mrs. Robert J. Arundel). (1810/1814-1892). In a notarized statement, she attributed the painting to Thomas Sully (1783-1872). Gallery owners in Manhattan and appraisers from Sotheby’s questioned the attribution, but named no other possible artist. The portrait owner contacted me for help in learning the identity of the artist. Following the three-legged stool approach of art authentication, provenance research, connoisseurship, and scientific examination, I researched the provenance and the history of the family. I began with the letter. The transcription:

Portrait by Sully:

A woman facing spectators, her left arm resting on chair, with a pink scarf, wearing a low-necked white satin dress.

Elizabeth Brook Weed, born 1814, the granddaughter of General Brook who is buried at Old St. David’s. She married Robert Arundel, an Englishman, born in 1802. She was married when she was 21 years old. Was painted the same year by Sully. She died in 1879. Her granddaughter is Mrs. Pauline Rambo Armstrong.

Pauline R. Armstrong (signed)

Notarized 28th November 1944 by William M. Parks

Notarized Statement from Subject's Granddaughter

Notarized Statement from Subject’s Granddaughter

Letter Analysis

Author

Pauline Rambo Armstrong was born 7 June 1861 in Bridgeport, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, to William A. Rambo (1836-after 1910) and Elizabeth Arundel Rambo (1834-1900). Pauline was the first of three children born to the Rambos. Her younger brothers were William Arundel (1864 – 1945) and Albert Sidney (1871-1949). In 1892, Pauline wed Ogden Armstrong (1855-after 1940). She was 31. They had no children.[1] In 1944, when Pauline gifted the portrait to her physician, she was 83 years old. How accurate were her statements?

Author’s Statements:

  1. Elizabeth Brook Weed was born in 1814
  2. Elizabeth Brook Weed was the granddaughter of General Brook who is buried at Old St. David’s.
  3. She married Robert Arundel
  4. Robert Arundel was an Englishman, born in 1802.
  5. Elizabeth Weed was married when she was 21 years old.
  6. Portrait was painted the same year by Sully.
  7. She died in 1879.
  8. Her granddaughter is Mrs. Pauline Rambo Armstrong

Statement Investigation

1.      Elizabeth Brook Weed was born in 1814 

Elizabeth Brook Weed Arundel, who called herself Eliza, consistently gave her year of birth as 1810.[2] In the census of 1840, when all family members, other than the head of household, were identified only by age, the census taker listed five males and five females in the household of Robert Arundel. He counted one male under 5; two, age 5-9; one, age 10-14, and one, age 30-39; two females under the age of 5; 1, age 5-9, and 2, age 30-39. This distribution fits family genealogical records. The Arundels had seven children:

James Mahany Arundel (1829 – 1853) – one male age 10-14

George Weed Arundel (1831 – 1903) – one of two males age 5-9

John McLean Arundel (1833 – 1911) – one of two males age 5-9

Elizabeth Arundel (1834 – 1900) – one female age 5 – 9

Anna Arundel (1837 – 1910) – one of two females under the age of 5

Harriet Arundel (1839 –) – one of two females under the age of 5

Robert James Arundel Jr. (1840 – 1911) – one male under 5

The male, age 30-39, can safely be presumed to be Robert James Arundel. One of the females age 30-39 can safely be presumed to be Elizabeth Weed Arundel. If born in 1810, she fit the age category. If born in 1814, she would have been 26, but that age category is empty. Therefore, the 1840 Census provides still further proof of the earlier birth date.[3]

Conclusion: False

2.      Elizabeth Brook Weed was the granddaughter of General Brook who is buried at Old St. David’s.

Through public records on Ancestry, I learned Elizabeth Brooke Weed’s mother was Elizabeth Brooke (1773-1825) whose father was Revolutionary War Veteran Major General William Brooke (1746-1829). He is buried at Old St. David’s Cemetery in Radnor, Pennsylvania.[4]

Conclusion: True

3.      She married Robert Arundel

According to family genealogical records, Robert James Arundel and Elizabeth A. Brook Weed married March 25, 1828[5], The birth of their first child, James Mahany Arundel in November 1829 falls into typical 19th century birth patterns. Both James and his brother George attended the University of Pennsylvania and both stated their parents to be Robert J. Arundel and Eliza Weed.[6]

Conclusion: True

4.      Robert Arundel was an Englishman, born in 1802.

Public genealogical records give the names of Robert James Arundel’s parents as Captain Robert Arundel (1744-1812) and Margaret Jack (1776-1836). The date and place of their marriage, according to records in the Pennsylvania Archives, was 1 December 1798 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In the 1860 census, Robert Arundel stated his place of birth as Pennsylvania, and his age as 50. By all indications, Robert James Arundel was not an Englishman. His father, however, was born in Exeter, England.[7] The elder Arundel, despite his birthplace, became an American naval captain who died fighting the British in a battle on the Great Lakes during the War of 1812.

Conclusion: False

5.      Elizabeth Weed was married when she was 21 years old.

Her wedding date, per family records was March 25, 1828. Elizabeth consistently stated her year of birth was 1810. Therefore, her age at her marriage was 18.

Conclusion: False

6.      Portrait was painted the same year by Sully.

To be determined

7.      She died in 1879.

Elizabeth Arundel was a head of household according to the 1880 United States Census. Family records show her date of death as 26 April 1892.[8]

Conclusion: False

8.      Her granddaughter is Mrs. Pauline Rambo Armstrong

Pauline Rambo Armstrong was indeed the granddaughter of Elizabeth Brook Weed Arundel. She was christened Elizabeth Pauline Rambo at Christ [Episcopal] Church in Bridgeport, Pennsylvania, on 24 June 1861. Her baptismal sponsors were her parents and her maternal grandmother, the portrait subject, Eliza. Weed Arundel. [9]

Summary of Investigation of Author’s Statements in Letter

Statement True / False
  1. Elizabeth Brook Weed was born in 1814
False
  1. Elizabeth Brook Weed was the granddaughter of General Brook who is buried at Old St. David’s.
True
  1. She married Robert Arundel
True
  1. Robert Arundel was an Englishman, born in 1802.
False
  1. She was married when she was 21 years old.
False
  1. Was painted the same year by Sully.
To be determined
  1. She died in 1879.
False
  1. Her granddaughter is Mrs. Pauline Rambo Armstrong
True

Of the eight statements in the letter, four proved false, three, true, and one, to be determined. Understanding that p often hear family history as children, it is not unusual for people to recollect only a portion of what was heard and to confuse bits and pieces. No harm is intended, but provenance and artist attribution are not infrequently questionable.

Actual Provenance

Elizabeth A. Brook Weed (Mrs. Robert James Arundel) (1810-1892); to her daughter, Elizabeth Arundel (Mrs. William B. Rambo) (1834-1900); to her daughter, Pauline Rambo (Mrs. Ogden Armstrong) (1861-after 1944).

In 1944, Pauline Rambo Armstrong gifted the portrait to her physician Cyrus W. Truxal, M.D. (1887-1971) of Wayne, Pennsylvania. To his daughter, to her son, to current owner.

Conclusion

Provenance research revealed that though the letter of attribution contained many errors, the portrait of Elizabeth Weed Arundel descended impeccably within two families. The attribution of the artist of the portrait to Thomas Sully, however, is questionable. The next step to determining the actual artist was Connoisseurship.

[1] United States Census Bureau, Tenth Census of the United States, “Household of William B. Rambo,” Upper Merion, Montgomery, Pennsylvania, 14 June 1870, page 12, lines 38-40; page 13, lines 1-3,National Archives and Record Administration (NARA), Roll: M593_1379; Page: 610B; Image: 583; United States Census Bureau, Eleventh Census of the United States, “Household of Wm. B. Rambo,” Upper Merion, Montgomery, Pennsylvania, 11 June 1880, page 135A, lines 5-11; NARA Roll: 1159; Page: 135A; United States Census Bureau, Thirteenth Census of the United States, “Household of Mary O. Morehouse,” Radnor, Delaware, Pennsylvania;, 9 May 1910, page 34, lines 41-45; NARA, Roll: Roll: T624_1340; Page: 34A; United States Census Bureau, Fifteenth Census of the United States, “Household of Ogden Armstrong,” Radnor, Delaware, Pennsylvania, 8 April, 1930, page 7B, lines 67-69; NARA: T626, 2032; Page: 7B; United States Census Bureau, Sixteenth Census of the United States, “Household of Ogden Armstrong,” Radnor, Delaware, Pennsylvania;, 19 April 1940, page 8A, lines 34-35; NARA, Roll: T627_3495; Page: 8A

[2] United States Census Bureau, Eighth Census of the United States“ Household of Robt Arundel,” 26 July 1860. Philadelphia Ward 14 Division 1, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, page 374, lines 12-20, NARA Roll: M653_1164; Page: 374; Image: 380; United States Census Bureau, Tenth Census of the United States, “Household of Eliza Arundel,” 3 June 1880, 3315 Broad Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, page 8, lines 21-26; NARA Roll: 1187; Page: 525Da, Pennsylvania, page 374, lines 12-20, NARA Roll: M653_1164; Page: 374; Image: 380.

[3] United States Census Bureau, Seventh Census of the United States“ Household of Robt Arundle,” 26 July 1840, Philadelphia Locust Ward, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, page 36, line 22, NARA Roll: 483; Page: 109; Image: 812.

[4] Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania Veterans Burial Cards; Archive Collection Number: Series 1-2; Folder Number: 59

[5] Documentation of the marriage is not found in on-line public records. The date of birth of the Arundel’s first son, James Mahany Arundel, however, is firmly established as November, 1829, through death and alumni records and fits well with the marriage date.

[6] University of Pennsylvania, Biographical catalogue of the matriculates of the college together with lists of the members of the college faculty and the trustees, officers and recipients of honorary degrees, 1749-1893, (University of Pennsylvania, 1894), 173.

[7]Pennsylvania Archives Printed Series, Pennsylvania Marriage Records. (Harrisburg, PA:, 1876), page 426, line 12; United States Census Bureau, Eighth Census of the United States“ Household of Robt Arundel,” op. cit.

[8] United States Census Bureau, Tenth Census of the United States, “Household of Eliza Arundel,” 3 June 1880, op. cit.

[9] Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records; Reel: 795, Page 150.

About Patricia Moss

Patricia Moss is an art historian, or art detective if you will, who solves mysteries of 19th century American portraits. She located nearly 70 of Bingham’s lost portraits, a feat acknowledged by the Smithsonian’s Research and Scholar’s Center. From expertise with portraits of George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879), she developed skills that evolved into a comprehensive system based on the scientific method that conforms to the legal and ethical standards of art authentication. Moss served as a guest curator for the Bingham Bicentennial Exhibit, “Steamboats to Steam Engines: George Caleb Bingham’s Missouri: 1819-1879,” (March 10-September 8, 2011) at the Truman Presidential Museum and curated the opening exhibition, “George Caleb Bingham: Witness to History,” (September 2013 –), Jackson County Art Museum, Independence, Missouri. She is also the principal researcher for Fine Art Investigations.
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