Sunday, May 1, 2022

Opening paragraphs....................

      They came to learn his secrets.  Well before the appointed hour of two o'clock in the afternoon of November 12, 1877, hundreds of spectators pushed into a courtroom in lower Manhattan.  They included friends and relatives of the contestants, of course, as well as leading lawyers who wished to observe the forensic skills of the famous attorneys who would try the case.  But most of the teeming mass of men and women—many fashionably dressed, crowded in until they were packed against the back wall—wanted to hear the details of the life of the richest man the United States had ever seen.  The trial over the will of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the famous, notorious Commodore, was about to begin.

-T. J. Stiles, The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt

New Amsterdam.............................


  On May 27, 1794, Phebe gave birth to her fourth child.  She underscored the sense of continuity by naming him Cornelius, too, though they called the boy Cornele.  She cooed over him in English.  Phebe had first met her husband in Port Richmond, a heavily Dutch village, where she had been working as a servant in the home of a minister, but she herself came from an old English family in New Jersey.

     In the town of New York this sort of intermarriage surprised no one.  There the Dutch has fallen to less than half the population as early as 1720; now they were less a minority than an interbred strand among its 33,000 residents.  As early as the rule of Petrus Stuyvesant in 1647, the village then named New Amsterdam had grown into a rather cosmopolitan place.  Stuyvesant governed under the authority of the Dutch West India Company, created to mobilize merchant capital to advance Dutch interests in the New World.  Under his administration, the little seaport came to reflect the commercial orientation of the Netherlands, the most industrious nation of seventeenth-century Europe.  As in the mother country, the primacy of trade, foreign trade in particular, had fostered a tolerance of strangers and disparate creeds (at a time when being a Quaker was a hanging offence in Massachusetts), and that tradition persisted.

-T. J. Stiles, The First Tycoon:  The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt



The Artist’s Father, Reading “L’Événement”, 1866

 France in Cézanne's time was in a state of turmoil that extended into every sphere of life.  Politically the nation shifted dramatically from republic to dictatorship and back to republic.  In 1851, the elected President of the Second Republic, Louis Napoleon, assumed the title of Emperor.  In many ways he was an enlightened ruler, and his reign was prosperous.  He built up an extensive railroad system, he had Paris redesigned with broad boulevards and spacious plazas, and he arranged international expositions to display the remarkable achievements in science and engineering.  The artistic world flourished, too, under the leadership of such creative personalities as the composers  Offerback and Gounod, the novelists Flaubert, Merimee and George Sand, and painters Delacroix, Ingres, Daumier, Courbet and the revolutionary Manet.

     But Louis Napoleon's reign came to a disastrous end in 1870 when he declared war on Prussia and was humiliated by a swift defeat.  A period of near anarchy followed.  When peace was restored, the new Republican government was forced to contend with political instability and shattering scandals abroad and at home. 

     Though Cézanne lived in this work, he was never a part of it.

-The Time-Life Library, The World of Cezanne: 1839-1906