Los Angeles

The Francis Minturn Sedgwick Collection

The Art Gallery, University of California, Santa Barbara

In the fall of 1960, Francis Minturn Sedgwick presented to the Art Gallery of the University of California, Santa Barbara, an outstanding collection of twenty European paintings dating from the 15th through the 17th century. The collection was given on the basis of a permanent loan with a certain number of the paintings becoming the property of the University annually. The underlying reason for this generous gift was the donor’s vision of the eventual development of a full scale teaching-museum at the Santa Barbara Campus. As a collection, the Sedgwick paintings have established an ideal of quality which it is hoped will serve as a guide in the development of the teaching-museum.

In its final form the collection was composed of a limited number of the paintings from the former collection of Robert S. Minturn together with six additional paintings which were acquired later. Represented in the group are four Italian paintings of the 15th and 16th centuries, six Flemish works of the 15th and 16th centuries, seven Dutch paintings of the 16th and 17th centuries, and one German example of the 18th century. Among the Italian examples is a large Madonna and Child probably by Giovanni Bellini, a Madonna and Child with Two Saints by Carpaccio and a most intriguing cassone painting depicting events in the life of St. Nicholas of Tolentino. The attribution of this latter painting is still undetermined, although the assertion has been made that it might be from the workshop of Perugino. The lyric and charming Portrait of Juana la Loca by the Flemish court artist Juan de Flandes and Gerald David’s Deposition, together with works by the School of Hugo van der Goes, and the Master of the Forties indicate the high quality of the Flemish section of the collection. Various aspects of Dutch painting are represented in a series of excellent portraits by Jan Gerritz Cuyp, Francis Pourbus, the younger, and others, and in still-lifes and landscapes by Melchior Hondecoeter, Ludolf Backhuyzen the elder, Phillips Wouwerman and Jacob Ruysdael. The single German example is a very revealing Portrait of a Donoress by Bartholomaeus Bruyn, and there is one portrait which has been assigned to the School of Holbein.

The detailed history of how Mr. Sedgwick first acquired the collection and the subsequent research and analysis forms an intriguing detective story in its own right. The original collection of over 70 paintings had been gathered together by Robert S. Minturn of Boston. Upon his death they were bequeathed to a nephew who placed them in storage in his basement. Years later the basement was flooded and many of the paintings were severely damaged. At this point the owner decided to sell the collection and, hearing of this, Mr. Sedgwick arranged for its purchase.

As is true of many American callections of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the attributions and quality of the collection were open to much question. In fact, a number of the paintings attributed to El Greco, Robert Constable and others were outright fakes, while others were erroneously attributed to various painters. The problem of restoring, cleaning and reconditioning the works was placed in the hands of Morton C. Bradley, Jr. of the Fogg Museum. Numerous scholars both here and abroad were consulted on the subject of authorship, and while the present list of definite attributions is still limited, the general province of each of the works has generally been settled. This research, plus future studies at the University, will undoubtedly solve many of the remaining mysteries.

David Gebhard