© The Frick Collection, New York
Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919) -shown here in a
posthumous portrait commissioned in 1943 -was one of the most important
American collectors to benefit from the 1882 Hamilton Palace sale.
Frick became a major collector after the death
of his daughter Martha in 1891, and built up a magnificent collection
of Old Master paintings, French furniture, and decorative art. In
1915 he was able to secure many items from the estate of the famous
American financier J Pierpont Morgan. His 'star buys' were the superb
secretaire and commode
(chest of drawers) which Jean-Henri Riesener had made for Queen
Marie-Antoinette of France in the 1780s and remodelled in 1790-91.
Both pieces had been acquired by the 10th
Duke of Hamilton. They were bought by two different dealers
at the 1882 Hamilton Palace sale, but were reunited and sold by
Sir Joseph Duveen to Morgan in 1899.
Frick had made his fortune from a monopoly on
the production of good quality coke (carbon fuel produced by distillation
of coal) in the Pittsburgh region and, in partnership with Andrew
Carnegie, developing and running steel mills. A bitter dispute between
the two men was settled in 1900, when Frick received over $30 million
in bonds and securities, but lost control of the H C Frick Coke
Company and the Carnegie Steel Company. He subsequently invested
in railways and was worth nearly $200 million at his death in December