Preservation Society acquires Vanderbilt busts for Breakers
SHARING THE BILLIARDS ROOM at The Breakers with a bust of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt are the donors who helped the Preservation Society of Newport County purchase the sculpture and another bust of his grandson for permanent display at the mansion. From left, Eugene B. Roberts Jr., Nicholas and Shelly Schorsch, Elizabeth and William Kahane, and Preservation Society Board Chairman Donald O. Ross.
COURTESY PRESERVATION SOCIETY OF NEWPORT COUNTY
By Patricia Daddona PBN Staff Writer
NEWPORT – Marble busts from the Vanderbilt family, which built The Breakers, the grandest summer cottage in the City by the Sea, have become a permanent fixture at the mansion, courtesy of the owner and several donors.
The busts of Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877) and his grandson, Cornelius Vanderbilt II (1843-1899), have been on display at The Breakers since 1927. But when another museum expressed interest in acquiring the busts, which had remained in the family’s possession, The Preservation Society of Newport County, an historic preservation nonprofit dedicated to preserving 11 properties here, initiated negotiations with Count Peter Eltz, the great-great-great grandson of the Commodore, and sought out donors to help with the cost of keeping the busts at The Breakers.
Elizabeth and William Kahane, Nicholas and Shelly Schorsch, and Mr. and Mrs. Eugene B. Roberts Jr. (himself a Vanderbilt descendant) helped fund the acquisition, and the busts are now permanently on display at The Breakers.
“We can’t thank the Kahane, Schorsch and Roberts families enough for this generous gift,” said Preservation Society Chairman Donald O. Ross. “These marble busts have been on our priority list for acquisition because of their direct connection to the Vanderbilt family and the significance of the artists who created them. We are gratified to know that they will remain here where they belong and where visitors can continue to appreciate them.
“We are also grateful to Peter Eltz for making the busts available to us, and for returning part of the $175,000 purchase price back to the Preservation Society in the form of a donation to pay for needed maintenance work and painting of the Children’s Cottage at The Breakers,” he added.
The Breakers is a symbol of the Vanderbilt family’s social and financial preeminence in the United States at the end of the 19th century. Commodore Vanderbilt established the family fortune in steamships and later in the New York Central Railroad, which was a pivotal development in the industrial growth of the nation at that time.
During a European trip aboard his yacht, “North Star,” in 1853, Vanderbilt commissioned the bust of himself from American sculptor Hiram Powers (1805-1873), who was working in Florence. The white marble sculpture, portraying Vanderbilt with a toga draped around his shoulders, was originally displayed in his New York house, and eventually in the home of his eldest grandson, Cornelius Vanderbilt II, at 1 West 57th St.
The bust was moved to The Breakers by Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt II in 1926-27, along with the bust of her husband, Cornelius Vanderbilt II, attributed to American sculptor John Quincy Adams Ward (1830-1910).