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Portrait of Astelle Atterbury, 1927

Updated: Aug 26, 2022

This portrait of Astelle Atterbury (Dorothy Axtelle Atterbury), wife of the famous architect Grosvenor Atterbury, was donated to the Southampton History Museum by Christine Bullen, daughter of Astelle's friend who rescued the piece from being thrown away.

In a letter written by Christine Bullen to the Southampton History Museum, she details how the painting came into her family's possession. Her mother, Edna Nodini, had a friend by the name of Janet T. Jordan living in Shinnecock hills, who was also friends with Astelle. Through Janet, Edna met Astelle during a time in which she was living in seclusion in Sugarloaf after giving up the trappings of wealth.

Astelle had her oil painting in her truck as she went to go visit Janet and Edna, saying she was going to throw it away as it was from a different part of her live she wanted nothing to do with anymore. When Edna offered to take the painting off her hands, Astelle didn't hesistate to give it to her.

After Edna passed away, Christine was in possession of the painting and held onto it. Finally deciding on the Southampton History Museum as where she would wish to donate the piece, the painting has once again found a home.

Astelle was originally going to be painted in a peacock dress but later had it painted over. Astelle herself thought the peacock dress was entirely too full of detail to look good in the painting. After an intense disagreement with the artist of the portrait (who remains unknown), Astelle's request that the dress be black was fulfilled but not without threatening to walk out of the sitting.

The frame bears a hand-carved stamp from the M. Grieve Company, based in both New York and London, with the canvas itself manufactured in Belgium.

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