Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Monday, October 24, 2005

More Information on the Portrait of 17th Century Mathematician John Pell

On October 7, I published to the Historic Pelham Blog a posting entitled "Important Portrait of 17th Century Mathematician John Pell, Brother of Thomas Pell, is 'Rediscovered'". This weekend I received a wonderful note from Pell family patriarch and well-known family historian Robert Pell-deChame of Fort Ticonderoga, New York. He pointed out, quite rightly, that describing the portrait as "rediscovered" implies that it was somehow "lost" though it never was! My inartful reference to "rediscovered" -- in quotation marks -- was in fact intended to suggest that it was not truly "lost". It seems best, however, to clarify that point and to provide an excerpt of Mr. Pell-deChame's note regarding the portrait:

"I just happened across the web article, 'Important Portrait of 17th Century Mathematician John Pell, Brother of Thomas Pell, is "Rediscovered',

( http://www.historicpelham.com/BlogArchive/Blog20051007.htm)

It was indeed my grandfather, Robert Thompson Pell, who located and purchased this (and other family portraits) during his Paris sojourn with the US Diplomatic Corps and subsequent journalist's career. He has left us a lengthy published account of how he located these.

The various portraits resided in my grandfather's various homes for a while until they were brought here to Ticonderoga, where my great-grandparents were busy restoring the fortress and the family house, built in 1826 by William Ferris Pell. Several copies of these were also made by the American expatriate artist Bradford Johnson, which we have in my family home, along with Johnson's portraits of my mother and uncle William Harding Pell. These were returned to us by my grandmother, Alice Harding Pell Allen, who had them displayed in the home of her second husband Julian Broome Livingston Allen, "Bolton Priory," where I recall them as a boy. Sister Parish, in her well-documented redecoration of "The Pavilion" in 1962, continued to give these portraits places of prominence in the entry hall and the dining room, where thousands of guests passed by them, such was the immediate recognition of these icons.

But really, it is nonsense to say that it has been 'rediscovered.' It was never lost as we have known very well where it has been all these years (it and its mates having been long displayed in 'The Pavilion,' our family seat, and very familiar to us all), has been published numerous times, and has been well recorded as far as all but the greenest of researchers is concerned."

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