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Lot 110*
Philip Alexius de László, PRBA, RP, NPS
(British, 1869-1937)
Portrait of Ellice Endicott, Mrs William Endicott, née Ellice Mack
Sold for £ 43,750 (US$ 57,081) inc. premium

Lot Details
Philip Alexius de László, PRBA, RP, NPS (British, 1869-1937)
Portrait of Ellice Endicott, Mrs William Endicott, née Ellice Mack
signed and dated 'de László/1926' (lower right)
oil on canvas
147.3 x 104.4cm (58 x 41 1/8in).
Presented in the original M. Grieve Company carved frame

Footnotes

  • This work will be included in the Philip de László catalogue raisonné, currently presented in progress online: www.delaszlocatalogueraisonne.com. We are grateful to Katherine Field for her assistance in cataloguing this lot.

    Provenance
    The sitter.
    Private Charitable Institution (by bequest).

    By the 1920s, Philip de László was well-known in London circles as the pre-eminent portrait painter of royalty, aristocracy, and high society, occupying a position once dominated by John Singer Sargent. Nearly one-third of his known works were created between 1920 and 1930, which speaks to both his fame and fluency.

    The present work was painted during de László's third visit to the United States, from October 1925 until early 1926. He had not been there since 1921 and was in high demand from illustrious clients in New York and Washington, D.C. Among those he painted during his visit were President Calvin Coolidge [4169], Andrew Mellon [6418], Adolphus Ochs [6487], proprietor of The New York Times, and George Eastman [4994], founder of Eastman Kodak.

    The work depicts the celebrated actress and sportswoman Ellice Mack (1892-1973), born to a literary family in St. John's Wood, London. Her father John Mack (1855-1933) worked in the art publishing trade and his brother Robert Ellice Mack was a writer and editor of children's books. According to the New York Times, the sitter was an "English stage beauty and singer" at the time she met her husband Lieutenant Colonel William Endicott Jr. (1865-1941) of Boston. During the First World War he served as American Red Cross Commissioner to Great Britain and was later created a Knight of Grace Order of St. John of Jerusalem, by King George V. They married at St Paul's Church in Hampstead, London, 27 March 1919.

    Ellice Endicott, who measured 5 foot 11, was an avid tennis player. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s her name appears in The New York Times and other publications as a prominent participant in tournaments. She was called 'a famous English girl and a baseline player of unusual ability' (19 March 1924). Endicott was ranked number 10 in the US in 1916 and number 11 in 1927 and was active on the French Riviera in 1928. In her later years, she was a serious amateur painter, exhibiting at the Mai Salon in Paris, the Alpine Club Gallery and the RA in London, in 1961.

    The three-quarter length format of the present work is prevalent in de László's work of this decade, which afforded a longer, luxurious view of the sitter's clothing and adornments. By this point in his career, de László preferred to work directly on the canvas 'picking first on some salient feature, such as eyes or nose, and then working outwards and downwards to details of dress and background'.1

    De László masterfully uses broad, dry, bravura brushwork to bring an ethereal quality to Mrs. Endicott's dress, counterbalanced by the chiaroscuro of her bodily form. She is pictured wearing a diaphanous grey silk gown and chiffon wrap highlighted with flecks of gold from the House of Worth, Paris. Charles Frederick Worth, known as the father of Haute Couture, founded House of Worth in 1858 and his designs were sought after by wealthy European and American women alike.

    Mrs. Endicott's relaxed pose and slightly parted lips reflect the ease with which de László related to his subjects. Richard Ormond has described John Singer Sargent as 'acutely sensitive both to the individual and to the social type, and in those portraits where he really engaged with his sitter he could match the sense of who they were and what they represented in designs of great originality' and the same could be said of de László.2 He encouraged sitters to chat during sittings so that he could capture their most natural and lively expressions.3 Here, Mrs. Endicott's left arm rests casually on the crest rail of the chair, in a gesture that belies the assertion of wealth as shown by her diamond ring and pearl bracelet, and romantic devotion in pointing to her heart.

    De László believed that the frame was integral to the portrait, to the point of advising patrons on selections and regularly painting the canvas within the chosen frame.4 The present portrait was painted in New York, with the first sitting on 13 January, completed in consecutive sittings over three days. Mrs. Endicott is presented here in the original M. Grieve Co. frame, a company with a transatlantic history in common. Maurice Grieve (c. 1889-1959), a descendant of 18th century Flemish framemakers, was the first of the Grieve family to establish an American branch of the London-based company, and was amongst the best-known framemakers in New York. The frame displays a broad range of technical virtuosity in carving, tooling, and burnishing, befitting this recently rediscovered work, which had remained in the sitter's residence since 1926.

    1 Sandra de László, ed., and Christopher Wentworth-Stanley, asst. ed., A Brush with Grandeur, London: Paul Holberton Publishing, 2004, p. 25.
    2 de László, 2004, p. 41.
    3 de László, 2004, p. 26.
    4 http://www.delaszlocatalogueraisonne.com/de-laszlo/technique-frames
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