DRAGONETTE, Jessica (1940)


Description:
Full-length seated holding a fan. Oil on canvas, 42” x 28.3/4” (106.7 x 73.1cms), signed and dated centre right ‘A Muller-Ury 194[0]’. The last digit is a little unclear, but it must be 1940. The stretcher has ‘1942’ inscribed in pencil in the artist’s hand, which may be when he altered the position of the hand.

Location:
Georgian Court University, 900, Lakewood Avenue, Lakewood, New Jersey 08701, U.S.A.

Provenance:
Jessica Dragonette; her husband Nicholas M. Turner; gift to Stephen Conrad, 1994, but sent to Georgian Court University later the same year at the request of Nicholas Turner, where it was formally presented on November 12, 1994.

Exhibition:
FRENCH & CO. INC., 210, East 57th Street, New York, April 21 – May 3, 1947, No. 27

Bibliography:
American Art News, Vol. XLVI, New York, April 1947, pp.45 – 46 .
The Sign, August 1947, p.27 – ‘Muller-Ury, Portraitist.’ (reproduced in photograph with the artist)
Faith is a Song, by Jessica Dragonette, (New York, 1951) pp. 243-244.

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Notes

Muller-Ury photographed with the portrait in 1940.

Jessica Valentina Dragonette was born February 14, 1900, and died March 18th, 1980, was a popular radio soprano before and during World War II. She married executive Nicholas Meredith Turner in 1947.

Muller-Ury met Jessica Dragonette in 1940 through the auspices of Archbishop Spellman, Martin Conboy (a New York attorney with the firm Conboy, Hewitt, O’Brien & Boardman) and her sister Nadea Loftus, after singing at the Catholic Radio Hour tenth anniversary broadcast. In her 1951 autobiography she wrote that Spellman said to her ‘…the little man sitting next to Martin Conboy is a great painter. I remember Muller-Ury from my American College Days in Rome. He has painted three popes and was a great favourite of Pius X. You must meet him before you go.’ Muller-Ury painted several portraits of Dragonette in the 1940s. She acquired numerous pictures by him from his estate in 1947.

Bibliography:

Jessica Dragonette, Faith is a Song, (New York, 1951), pp. 239-241, 243-244, and 300-301.

A press photograph of Jessica Dragonette with her portrait.

The first picture painted of the singer, possibly commissioned in 1940 by her sister Rosalinda (Nadea) Dragonette Loftus, but paid for by the sitter through her sister giving $150.00 installments which seem to have continued until at least July 1942. It was about this time that Muller-Ury altered the position of the right hand (and changed the blue bow into a flowing ribbon, painted out the small tree on the horizon above this, and generally darkened the landscape), after Juley had photographed the picture, something he had refused to do at first.

The portrait as it appeared between 1940 and 1942 as seen in a photograph by Peter A. Juley & Sons in the artist’s papers.

In her autobiography, Faith is a Song, Jessica Dragonette writes as follows:

‘Between the flights to Dearborn, I was now sitting to Muller-Ury. He had decided on a life-size portrait, had chosen the position, the background, and the gown – an embroidered white organdy with French blue moiré sash I used for summer concerts. It was a good deal for both of us to embark on, since we were so busy. Insatiable, he demanded hours of posing, yet all of them were enjoyable because next to painting, Muller-Ury loved to talk. He worked right through the summer, and every hour I could spend away from practice and performance, I devoted to him.’

The singer, Fred Mitchell, who was also painted by Muller-Ury sent the artist a telegram from Atlantic City on July 23, 1940 (artist’s papers):

= WITH THE COMPLETION OF JESSICAS PORTRAIT YOU HAVE IMMORTALIZED A FRIENDSHIP I AM DELIGHTED AND SADLY REGRET CANT BE WITH YOU AND FRIENDS THIS AFTERNOON=

FRED MITCHELL


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