An opulent example of Gilded Age portraiture, the full-length society portrait of Mrs. Irene M. Peacock painted by Raimundo de Madrazo in 1902 takes the spotlight in a focus installation in the French Room at The Frick Art Museum.
Mrs. Peacock (1864–1947) was a noted figure in the Pittsburgh social scene at the turn of the 20th century. The Brooklyn native moved to Pittsburgh in 1889 when her husband, Alexander Rolland Peacock (1864–1928) joined Carnegie Steel Company. For a short time, the Peacocks lived next door to the Fricks at the corner of Lexington and Penn Avenues. Mr. Peacock ascended the corporate ladder and the couple’s wealth and social status soared to lavish heights. In 1902, the Peacocks commissioned Raimundo de Madrazo (1841–1920) to paint their portraits, cementing their position among the social elite. Madrazo was a celebrated portraitist distinguished by a fine sense of color, fluid brushstrokes, and an extraordinary capacity to capture the natural expression of his subjects in their most relaxed and elegant state. Madrazo’s portrait of Mrs. Peacock, extensively documented at the time of its creation, was displayed at Rowanlea, the Peacocks’ mansion on North Highland Avenue, built by Alden & Harlow in 1901.
Mrs. Peacock’s portrait provides a unique opportunity for the examination of one portrait from multiple perspectives. The graceful expression, dazzling colors, and impressive scale embodies the opulence of the Gilded Age and harkens back to the masters of eighteenth century portraiture. Recent conservation treatments have restored the grandeur of the painting and its original gilded frame. Included in the installation are a selection of 18th-century portrait mezzotints collected by Henry Clay Frick in the early 1900s, which provide an interesting comparison to the 1902 portrait.