2018-08-11 / News

Restored 1856 Painting Back on Display at the Stuart House Museum

By Marley Tucker


The recently-restored portrait of Robert Stuart is on display at the Stuart House. It is the latest addition to the city-owned museum, which chronicles the fur trade and the American Fur Company. The recently-restored portrait of Robert Stuart is on display at the Stuart House. It is the latest addition to the city-owned museum, which chronicles the fur trade and the American Fur Company. The portrait of Robert Stuart that hangs above the fireplace at Stuart House City Museum, one of the few paintings of the prominent 19th-century Island resident, was donated to the museum in 2016 by West Bluff cottagers Robert and Theodore Hamady.

It is one of four paintings commissioned for Mr. Stuart’s children in the 1850s, this one completed in 1856. It came to the Hamady brothers through Stuart Blue, a distant relative of Mr. Stuart.

She lived across the hall from Robert Hamady and his wife, Mary LaClair, in a Washington, D.C. condominium. They connected when their mutual relationships with the Island came up in conversation, and Ms. Blue mentioned that she owned a painting of her ancestor.

Mr. and Mrs. Hamady purchased the painting from her and she was happy that it would go back home to the Island and in the museum, Robert Hamady said.

“It’s a wonderful coincidence, isn’t it? It’s just marvelous,” said Mr. Hamady. “Mackinac Island has a way of drawing you to certain people.”

Robert Stuart came to Mackinac Island in 1817 as an assistant to Ramsay Crooks, resident agent of the American Fur Company, eventually replaced him and served for 14 years until the fur trade declined. The museum is named after him because of his association with the building, known as the Agent’s House during the fur trade boom, and his national prominence, said museum staff member Cordie Puttkammer.

The portrait needed restoration, so in the early winter of 2018, it was sent to Page Conservation, Inc., in Washington D.C. The company restores artifacts that are in various states of distress. In the full restoration of the Stuart painting, varnish was removed, tears and cracks repaired. The grime accumulated over time was removed. The frame was conserved as well.

Mr. Hamady said Arthur Page, the chief conservator of Page Restoration, didn’t want to repaint any sections of the painting, so as to conserve what was already revealed after cleaning. The process took a few months.

“He is a highly reputable preserver in his field and he did not want to retouch the painting, which we agreed with,” said Mr. Hamady. “It was very difficult to work with what he had because he could either remove parts or repaint it. He didn’t want to do either of those things. The integrity of the painting was of upmost importance to him, which is all I could ask of him.”

The Robert Stuart painting can be viewed at the Stuart House City Museum, open from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day. Admission is by donation.

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