Who gave the famous “Elaine” painting to the Art Institute of Chicago?

Before the pandemic, there would be blockbuster shows where people lined up to see an exhibit. But how about lines of people for one painting?

The Art Institute of Chicago writes: “Thousands of people lined up to see the painting ‘Elaine’ when it was displayed in San Francisco in 1875.” It’s a fascinating story, give it a read.

Painting Elaine by Toby Edward Rosenthal

This painting ended up in the Art Institute of Chicago’s collection.

Its journey hopped between owners along the way. According to the provenance on the Art Institute collection:

  • The artist, Munich, Germany, 1874
  • sold to Mrs. Robert C. Johnson, San Francisco, Fall 1874
  • sold to Mr. Boardman, New York, c. 1885
  • sold to Mr. Joseph Rosenberg, Heidelberg, Germany, May 1887
  • sold to Mrs. Maurice Rosenfeld, Chicago, c. 1891
  • given to the Art Institute of Chicago, 1917

This painting was one of the most famous paintings of its time (or at least it was in San Francisco).

Who is Maurice Rosenfeld that gave the Elaine painting to the Art Institute?

Why did she give it to the Art Institute? How did she purchase it from Mr. Joseph Rosenberg of Germany?

Maybe we can get a clue by seeing what other artworks she donated to the museum. If she was able to get her hands on such a desired painting, certainly she has other artworks too, right?

From what I can see online, this is the only artwork she has donated to the Art Institute of Chicago.

Same Rosenfeld?

Along my searches, I found there is another artwork at the Art Institute that shares Maurice Rosenfeld’s last name: An architecture work currently on display, called “Rosenfeld Building: Spandrel Panel“. Chances are that there is no connection. Just the same common last name.

Rosenfeld Building: Spandrel Panel

Researching previous owners of ‘Elaine’

For giggles I also googled the previous owners of the painting, along with the artist name. I was hoping to see maybe the previous owners own some of Rosenthal’s other works.

  • “Joseph Rosenberg” “Toby Edward Rosenthal”
  • “Mr. Boardman” “Toby Edward Rosenthal” (what a delightfully generic name: Mr. Boardman)
  • “Robert C. Johnson” “Toby Edward Rosenthal”

These searches yielded nothing.

Request to Art Institute of Chicago for help

I tweeted the Art Institute to see if they can yield any additional information about Maurice Rosenfeld.

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