Scope and Content of Collection
Title: French & Company records
Date (inclusive): 1910-1998
Date (bulk): 1950-1960
Collection number: 990051
French & Company (New York,
6 linear ft.
boxes, 3 flat file folders)
Getty Research Institute
Special Collections and Visual Resources
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles, CA 90049-1688
Abstract: The French & Company records document some
of the activities of the art dealership and primarily date from the period of
Spencer Samuels's directorship, ca. 1950-1960. Papers relate to legal and
business operations, financial matters, the board of directors, business deals,
artwork sales, exhibitions, and publicity for the firm.
Language: Collection material in
Open for use by qualified researchers.
French & Company records, 1910-1998, bulk 1950-1960, Getty
Research Institute, Research Library, Accession no. 990051.
Collection acquired in 1999 from Spencer A. Samuels Company, New
York. Additional portions received in 2002, 2003.
Collection processed by Rina Vecchiola in April 2001. Additions
received in 2002 and 2003 were integrated into the collection in Dec. 2003. One
box of books was separated to the Getty Research Library.
The following related collections are part of the Getty Research
Library, Special Collections and Visual Resources:
French & Company photographic archive of fine and decorative
arts, 1920-1968. Special Collections accession no. 71.P.1.
French & Company (New York, N.Y.). Stock sheets and ledgers,
1909-1968. Special Collections accession no. 840027.
Study photographs of tapestries, 1914-1995. Special Collections
accession no. 97.P.7. (The bulk of the photographs in this collection are from
the French & Company photographic archive.)
One box of monographs was separated from the archive. Books have been
cataloged and placed in the Getty Research Library.
An art dealership based in New York City, French & Company bought
and sold decorative arts, as well as paintings and sculpture. For over half a
century after Mitchell Samuels co-founded the firm in 1907 in New York, French
& Company was considered one of the largest art dealerships in the world.
Under Mitchell Samuels' directorship, French & Company worked with many
wealthy American collectors eager to develop collections in decorative art
objects and paintings of European provenance. Among the firm's clients were J.
Paul Getty, William Randolph Hearst, J.P. Morgan, the Vanderbilts, and the
Rockefellers. During this period, the firm also served as agents and decorators
for the Huntingtons, Fricks, Mellons, and Astors. The French & Company
building on East 57th Street housed more than 50 showrooms, eight fireproof
vaults and a 10,000 volume art reference library.
Spencer Samuels, Mitchell's son, took over as president of French
& Company in the 1950s. During his presidency, Spencer Samuels collected
sales records from major worldwide art auctions dating to as far back as the
1700s in order to provide complete documentation for the artwork the firm sold.
After his father's death, Spencer sold the firm to City Investing in 1959 and
went to work for Duveen Brothers. In 1968, City Investing sold the firm to
Martin Zimet. Much of the French & Company remaining stock of decorative
arts objects was sold at auction in 1968. The firm continued under the same
name after the 1950s, but with a changing inventory and clientele.
Scope and Content of Collection
The French & Company records document some of the activities of
the art dealership and are drawn mainly from the period of Spencer Samuels'
directorship in the 1950s. Papers relate to legal and business operations,
financial matters, the board of directors, business deals, artwork sales,
exhibitions, and publicity for the firm. One videotape records the opening of
French & Company on Madison Ave., New York City. Specific subjects include
the reorganization of French & Company, audits of the firm, relations with
J. Paul Getty, tapestry sales, appraisals of artworks, and art market research.
Several boxes of clippings, and some photographs, document French & Company
exhibits (including in Mexico and Cuba), as well as art market news. Much of
the documentation is in the form of correspondence: typescript, handwritten, or
copied. Other types of records include ledger sheets, photographs,
transparencies, photocopies, and newspaper and magazine clippings.
The bulk of the firm's records were lost in a fire. The Getty Research
Library holds French & Company stock sheets and ledgers in a separate
acquisition (Accession no. 840027). The photographic archive of the firm was
acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum in 1971, and is now part of the Getty
Research Library's Photo Study Collection (Accession no. 71.P.1 and 97.P.7).
The papers are organized in 7 series:
Series I. Legal and business operations, 1922-1998, bulk
Series II. Financial, 1915-1959
Series III. Board of directors, 1954-1959
Series IV. Business dealings and correspondence,
Series V. Sales records, 1927-1998, bulk 1950-1998
Series V.A. Getty correspondence and appraisals,
Series V.B. Records relating to clients other than Getty,
Series V.C. Artwork inventory and sales records,
Series VI. Exhibitions and publicity, 1930-1967, bulk
Series VII. Architectural drawings, 1910-1950
Getty, J. Paul (Jean
Paul), 1892-1976—Collectors and collecting
French & Company (New
Art dealers—New York
Commercial—New York (State)—New York
Genres and Forms of Material
Black and white
Getty, J. Paul (Jean
J. Paul Getty
Spencer A. Samuels &