Ms George W (Lilly Helen) Steele 1927

¾ Portrait in sitting position, her body turned slightly sideways, her gaze directed toward the viewer, but not looking directly at him. The portrayed woman wears a gray, sleeveless, wide-cut silk dress with a short train; around her neck a long three-row pearl necklace, pearl clips on her ears, around her left arm, a wide silver hoop. In her hands she holds a fan with light blue ostrich feathers. Background: stylized wide landscape in brown tones.

JQAW# P_1927_200
Oil on canvas, 128 x 93 cm
Signature: John Quincy Ɑdams 1927
Unknown private collection.

Lilly Helen Heleker, married Van Kleek/du Puy/Steele, 12.2.1879 to 16.8.1951.
First marriage (1899) to William van Kleek (1873-1922), divorced ca. 1910 (no descendants); second marriage to ?? du Puy (??-??), divorced before 1923 (one son, John du Puy); third marriage (1923) to George Washington Steele Jr (1879-1955) (no descendants). At the time of the Adams portrait, which was probably executed on the East Coast or in Washington, D.C., on the occasion of Adams' first trip to the U.S. after the war, the Steeles were well-known public figures. George W. Steele was a naval officer, commander of the Zeppelin airship "Los Angeles" in 1924-1925, commander of the USS Pittsburgh in 1927 (on assignment in the Chinese Civil War in Shanghai), and captain of the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga for a short time until his retirement in 1932. The connection to Adams may have been through the Warner family (see their 1927 portraits; Milton Warner was a Yale graduate and avid golfer, a sport Adams also played) or the far-flung Adams family of Greater Boston.

In his Portrait of Lilly Helen Steele (described at auction as "Portrait Ms George W Steale"), Adams combines both the tradition of the aristocratic lady portrait with the current fashion of the "Roaring Twenties" to create a particularly iconic portrait whose glamorous rendering contrasts effectively with the somewhat dreamy, melancholy gaze of the sitter. The painting was sold at auction in Paris in 2012. It is possible that the Steeles, who were in Europe in 1928-1931 (George W. was naval attaché in Paris, Madrid and Lisbon), left the painting behind, or alternatively that it was brought to auction by descendants (after John du Puy, about whom no further information is available).




Auction Bailly-Pommery & Voutier Paris 22.6.2012 Lot 129.
Unknown private collection.