Jacob van Ruisdael, Landscape with a Footbridge, 1652, oil on canvas, 38 3/4 × 62 5/8 inches, The Frick Collection, New York. Photo: Michael Bodycomb

Historic Gift Deeply Enriches the Resources of the Frick Art Reference Library

The Frick Collection announces the acquisition of an important gallery archive that will deepen and enrich the resources of the Frick Art Reference Library. The archive of Rosenberg & Stiebel, a transatlantic family firm with a notable history of private and institutional clients for nearly 150 years, has been gifted to the Frick by Gerald G. Stiebel, complemented by the concurrent gift of the related archive of Penelope Hunter-Stiebel. Comments Ian Wardropper, Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Director of the Frick, “We are extremely grateful to Gerald and Penelope for these important gifts to the Frick Art Reference Library. The Rosenberg & Stiebel archive was one of the last major dealer archives held in private hands in the western hemisphere, and it is exceptionally important to preserve and make accessible.”

Page from the Rosenberg & Stiebel gallery’s New York City visitors’ book, 1956. The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives. Photo: Cris Sunwoo

Stephen J. Bury, the Frick’s Andrew W. Mellon Chief Librarian, remarks, “This archive is critical for the flourishing study of the history of collecting. It particularly concerns transactions in the twentieth century, and we are privileged to have this rich and unique body of documentation incorporated into our broader archival holdings. It joins the Henry Clay Frick art acquisition files and the Loewi-Robertson archive, along with numerous other similar resources. Together, they further the Frick’s support of provenance research and the study of the history of collecting, both strengths of the library’s vast collection.” Adds Sally Brazil, Barbara G. Fleischman Associate Chief Librarian, Archives and Records Management, “Archivists always want to keep related materials together, as their value is compounded that way, so it is fantastic that we are now able to maintain and offer these remarkable resources to researchers at the same time under one roof.”

Gerald and Penelope commented, “We are most proud, as our parents would be, that our work in the gallery and museum world will live on and hope it will help future art historians to learn about the lives of objects and the history of collecting.”

Frankfurt storefront from which the gallery operated from approximately 1874 to 1933. The Frick Collection/Frick Art Reference Library Archives. Photo: Cris Sunwoo

Founded in 1874 in Frankfurt by Jakob Rosenbaum, the dealership sold Kleinkunst, or decorative works including German ceramics and medieval and Renaissance objects. It began to sell Old Master paintings under Jakob’s son Isaak Rosenbaum (d. 1936), who, childless, brought in his nephews Saemy Rosenberg (d. 1970) and Hans (d. 1964) and Eric Stiebel (d. 2000). Hans Stiebel moved to Paris after the First World War and specialized in French eighteenth-century furniture and decorative arts. With the advent of fascism in Germany, Isaak Rosenbaum opened a gallery in Amsterdam, and Saemy and brother Raphael Rosenberg opened one in London. In 1939, Eric Stiebel established a gallery in New York, where Saemy Rosenberg and Hans Stiebel joined him after the Second World War. Eric was initially joined by his son Gerald and later by Gerald’s wife Penelope Hunter-Stiebel. The gallery was based at 32 East 57th Street, before moving to a private house at 252 East 68th Street in 2000, where it was known as Stiebel Ltd.

Between the wars, the firm was involved in major acquisitions and sales. They were part of the syndicate that bought the Guelph Treasure from the Duke of Brunswick in 1929, going on to sell nine pieces to the Cleveland Museum of Art. They also took part in the private art sales in the late 1920s and early 1930s through which the Soviets hoped to raise international currency to support their plans for rapid industrialization. After the Second World War, the gallery sold many works to The Metropolitan Museum of Art (including Robert Campin’s Mérode Altarpiece, now at The Cloisters); the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and many other public institutions. Of note is the 1949 sale to The Frick Collection of the restituted Landscape with a Footbridge by Jacob van Ruisdael, which had belonged to Baron Louis von Rothschild, whose family’s connections to the gallery went back to its early Frankfurt days. Distinguished private clients working with the gallery included Jayne and Charles Wrightsman, Jack and Belle Linsky, Robert Lehman, J. Paul Getty, as well as Helen Clay Frick, Henry Clay Frick’s daughter and founder of the Frick Art Reference Library.

The Penelope Hunter-Stiebel archive contains material concerning research during her tenure at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1969–1983) where she pioneered the field of 20th-century decorative arts. It also covers her independent exhibition projects and tenure at the Portland Art Museum as Consulting Curator of European Art (1998–2008) organizing major exhibitions from Russia, France, The Netherlands, Italy, and Germany, and subsequent research for articles on art in New Mexico museums.

The reading room of the Frick Art Reference Library is currently housed at Frick Madison, the temporary home of The Frick Collection during the renovation of its historic buildings. Free appointments to the reading room may be reserved at frick.org/visit/library.

Gerald G. Stiebel and Penelope Hunter-Stiebel. Tira Howard Photography

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