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August Belmont and His Family

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August Belmont and His Family  |  August Belmont 1816–1890  |  Born Alzei, Germany  |  Wouterus Verschuur (1812–1874)  |  Oil on canvas, 1854  |  Gift of Paul Mellon  |  NPG.80.138

During the economic depression known as the panic of 1837, August Belmont-in the United States as an enterprising employee of Germany's Rothschild Bank-scouted the opportunities, resigned from his job, and shortly amassed a fortune as a financier, founding the firm of August Belmont and Company. Becoming an American citizen, Belmont turned to politics, and his support for the Democrats was rewarded with ambassadorships to Austria and the Netherlands. A staunch Unionist, Belmont used his European connections to argue the North's cause in both England and on the Continent. He was a patron of the arts and an avid sportsman, and his style of conspicuous consumption anticipated a later generation of American tycoons. Belmont further enhanced his public profile when he married the glamorous daughter of naval hero Matthew Perry in 1849.

This painting shows Belmont returning from a drive. He holds the reigns, steering the carriage on the left, Seated beside him is his sister in law, Isabel Perry. Belmont’s wife and son are being driven in the more formal carriage on the right.  Woterus Verschuur was a Dutch painter born in Amsterdam in 1812. He lived and worked throughout the Netherlands and became well respected for his detailed equestrian and landscape scenes. Throughout his lifetime he achieved commercial and professional success, exhibiting his work nationally and internationally.

  • If you could jump into this painting, where would you jump and why?
  • Consider your five senses in relation to your location within the portrait. What would you feel/smell/hear/taste/see?
  • How is this portrait different from other portraits you have seen?
  • Based on what you see, what are some of August Belmont’s favorite things?