The sitter was born Hendrick Pieter Wertheim in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on 2 October 1872 the son of Karel Abraham Wertheim and Henriette van Heukelom. In 1914, he added his mother’s maiden name to his own to become officially Henri P. Wertheim van Heukelom.
Wertheim was a broker in the firm J. & W. Seligman. Shortly after the death of his first wife Clara Wertheim in 1903 Gladys Seligman, the daughter of Henry Seligman, was introduced to society. The prodigious girl had been the youngest student ever admitted to Byrn Mawr College—entering at the age of 15. She had traveled worldwide with her parents and spoke French, Italian and German. On 14 February1904 The New York Times described her as a “very tall slight young girl, and carries herself well. Her hair is very light brown with a golden tinge, and is worn on the top of her head in loose masses. Her large dark-blue eyes are shaded by unusually long black lashes. Her complexion is fair and delicate, with pink-tinted cheeks, and her nose is a decided retrousse.” It was possibly Gladys’ turn-up nose that caught Henri Wertheim’s eye. The two were married at the Seligman’s New York mansion in April 1905. The first of the couple’s daughters, Katherine, was born on March 26, 1906. He died in 1953.
In an undated letter (artist’s papers), certainly written in 1900, the sitter wrote from Probst, Wetzlar & Co. (of which he was apparently the head from 1897), Lord’s Court Building, New York, as follows:
‘My dear friend,
It gives me a great deal of pleasure to enclose herewith check in settlement of our account, and I avail myself of this opportunity to express to you how sincerely happy I am that through sitting for any portrait I have had occasion to appreciate and esteem you.
Kindly drop in one of these days (in daylight) so as to look at the portrait as I have one or two suggestions to make.
Avec une bonne poignee de main
Sincerely yours, H.P. Wertheim’
He was a broker at J & W Seligman, and was a banker in the firm of Wolff, Wertheim and Co.
The sitter is documented as living at 165, East 70th Street in 1902, near to the collector Jules S. Bache at 163, East 70th Street, but also in West 57th Street from where he may have moved earlier that year into a house designed by Cass Gilbert.
Some time after his first wife’s death on 24 April 1905 he apparently married a Miss Gladys Seligman (12 October 1885-1966) the daughter of David and J. Adelaide (Addie) Seligman.