SWORDS, Henry Cotheal

A portrait of a man with a moustache and wearing spectacles holding a book and facing left sits crossed-legged beside a table with a book. Oil on canvas 50 x 40 ins. Signed and dated lower right ‘A Muller-Ury 1931’.

Present Whereabouts Unknown

Gift of Mrs Swords to the Fulton Trust Company, 1002 Madison Avenue, New York, on September 17, 1931.

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The sitter was born on October 31, 1854. On August 2, 1909 Mr Swords was elected Treasurer of the New York Stock Exchange. He had been elected to the Exchange on October 11, 1877, though he was not an active member since he became involved with the Fulton Trust Company. He was married to Elizabeth, daughter of the late Samuel Clarkson of Philadelphia on Wednesday February 5, 1896 at St. Stephen’s Philadelphia. They had a daughter called Elizabeth. He seems to have died on the 6th February 1924.

According to the New York Times, November 18, 1912, he was descended from Lieutenant Thomas Swords of the British 85th Regiment of Foot, who resigned in 1776 because he sympathized with the American colonists. A service was held in St Paul’s Chapel Trinity Parish, near Broadway and Fulton Streets, in New York, November 17, 1912, when a bronze cross was unveiled at Thomas Swords’ tomb by great-great-granddaughter Elizabeth Swords.

He erected a drinking fountain in memory of his mother, Ann Maria Cotheal Swords, in Trinity Churchyard in 1911.

The picture was painted in 1931, and Muller-Ury records in his diary the progress of the posthumous portrait. The entries are in Airolese Italian dialect, here freely translated:

JUNE 2, 1931: New York – Mrs. Sword and her daughter and friend came and brought me some photographs for the portrait and she seems anxious to have a portrait of her husband by me because she knows several of my acquaintances – I ought to do something magnificent because she seems to take such interest!

JUNE 16, 1931: San Marino – I began the design for the composition of Mrs. Sword for the Fulton Trust Co. of New York – and I have to do something exceptional.

JUNE 17, 1931: San Marino – I am beginning the design of Mr. Sword…

JUNE 18, 1931 San Marino – I began to paint a hand of Mr. Sword…

JUNE 1, 1931: New York – I am still working on the vases and I am having lunch with Mr. Bangs Dir. of the Fulton Trust Co. Mad. & 78th Street at the Raquet Club – he is very interesting – then afterwards downtown where I saw Mrs Sword for the portrait of her husband.

JUNE 22, 1931: San Marino – I am painting Mr. Sword with much hope of making a great success.

JUNE 23, 1931: Tuesday – San Marino – The head of Mr. Sword is coming along well and in this quiet one can work – without being disturbed.

JUNE 29, 1931: San Marino – I worked on the portrait of President Sword…

JULY 2, 1931: San Marino – I am painting the clothes and books of the Sword portrait.

JULY 4, 1931: Saturday – San Marino. I spent the National Holiday working on the landscape background of the Sword portrait…

JULY 7, 1931: San Marino. I have almost finished the portrait of Mr. Swords of the Fulton Trust Co. and it seems an excellent work to me and could become one of my most successful.

JULY 16, 1931: S.M. I am painting roses and also Mr. Sword and so the time passes quietly and also happily – I believe that these two works have something of a freer style and are not so hard – also they are more harmonious and strong.

SEPTEMBER 8, 1931: New York – I arrived at 9.40 – and went to the Hotel Barbizon Plaza 101 W. 58 St. then to Duveen’s where I immediately looked over the portrait of Mr. Sword for Fulton Trust Co…

SEPTEMBER 9, 1931: New York – today Mr. Banks, Vice-President of the Fulton Trust Co. came to see the portrait of Mr. Sword and he found it to be perfect — and I almost hope that Mrs. S. will find it the same.  I telephoned her to come to lunch and with him I had lunch at the Racquet Club.

SEPTEMBER 14, 1931: N.Y. Mrs. Sword came with Mr. Banks to see the portrait — and they just found the clothes a little light, but they do not understand that in order to achieve a good effect there is artistic licence — I have only to make the complexion a little darker.

SEPTEMBER 15, 1931: N.Y. I am painting Mr. Sword making the complexion on the head a little more bronzed by the sun and some shadows on the clothing to make it darker — and now I believe even Mrs. Sword will be pleased.

SEPTEMBER 17, 1931: N.Y. Mrs. Sword came and was very happy and she could not find words to express her satisfaction with the portrait of her husband.  She wanted it to go immediately to the Trust Co. 1002 Mad. Av. New York and they placed it there and it had a magnificent effect and according to the words of the director Banks and Mrs. Sword — paid $5,000 (and 324 for the frame).

SEPTEMBER 18, 1931: N.Y. I am happy to have deposited $5,000 at the Guarantee Trust Co…

The duotone photograph in the artist’s papers bears the stamp of Murray K. Keyes.