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INVENTORY OF THE FRENCH & COMPANY RECORDS, 1910-1998, bulk 1950-1960
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Collection Details
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  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Related Material
  • Separated Material
  • Biographical/Historical Note
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: French & Company records
    Date (inclusive): 1910-1998
    Date (bulk): 1950-1960
    Collection number: 990051
    Creator: French & Company (New York, N.Y.)
    Extent: 6 linear ft. (17 boxes, 3 flat file folders)
    Repository: Getty Research Institute
    Research Library
    Special Collections and Visual Resources
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles, CA 90049-1688
    Abstract: The French & Company records document some of the activities of the art dealership and primarily date from the period of Spencer Samuels's directorship, ca. 1950-1960. Papers relate to legal and business operations, financial matters, the board of directors, business deals, artwork sales, exhibitions, and publicity for the firm.
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    Language: Collection material in English

    Administrative Information


    Open for use by qualified researchers.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    French & Company records, 1910-1998, bulk 1950-1960, Getty Research Institute, Research Library, Accession no. 990051.

    Acquisition Information

    Collection acquired in 1999 from Spencer A. Samuels Company, New York. Additional portions received in 2002, 2003.

    Processing History

    Collection processed by Rina Vecchiola in April 2001. Additions received in 2002 and 2003 were integrated into the collection in Dec. 2003. One box of books was separated to the Getty Research Library.

    Related Material

    The following related collections are part of the Getty Research Library, Special Collections and Visual Resources:
    French & Company photographic archive of fine and decorative arts, 1920-1968. Special Collections accession no. 71.P.1. French & Company (New York, N.Y.). Stock sheets and ledgers, 1909-1968. Special Collections accession no. 840027. Study photographs of tapestries, 1914-1995. Special Collections accession no. 97.P.7. (The bulk of the photographs in this collection are from the French & Company photographic archive.)

    Separated Material

    One box of monographs was separated from the archive. Books have been cataloged and placed in the Getty Research Library.

    Biographical/Historical Note

    An art dealership based in New York City, French & Company bought and sold decorative arts, as well as paintings and sculpture. For over half a century after Mitchell Samuels co-founded the firm in 1907 in New York, French & Company was considered one of the largest art dealerships in the world. Under Mitchell Samuels' directorship, French & Company worked with many wealthy American collectors eager to develop collections in decorative art objects and paintings of European provenance. Among the firm's clients were J. Paul Getty, William Randolph Hearst, J.P. Morgan, the Vanderbilts, and the Rockefellers. During this period, the firm also served as agents and decorators for the Huntingtons, Fricks, Mellons, and Astors. The French & Company building on East 57th Street housed more than 50 showrooms, eight fireproof vaults and a 10,000 volume art reference library.
    Spencer Samuels, Mitchell's son, took over as president of French & Company in the 1950s. During his presidency, Spencer Samuels collected sales records from major worldwide art auctions dating to as far back as the 1700s in order to provide complete documentation for the artwork the firm sold. After his father's death, Spencer sold the firm to City Investing in 1959 and went to work for Duveen Brothers. In 1968, City Investing sold the firm to Martin Zimet. Much of the French & Company remaining stock of decorative arts objects was sold at auction in 1968. The firm continued under the same name after the 1950s, but with a changing inventory and clientele.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The French & Company records document some of the activities of the art dealership and are drawn mainly from the period of Spencer Samuels' directorship in the 1950s. Papers relate to legal and business operations, financial matters, the board of directors, business deals, artwork sales, exhibitions, and publicity for the firm. One videotape records the opening of French & Company on Madison Ave., New York City. Specific subjects include the reorganization of French & Company, audits of the firm, relations with J. Paul Getty, tapestry sales, appraisals of artworks, and art market research. Several boxes of clippings, and some photographs, document French & Company exhibits (including in Mexico and Cuba), as well as art market news. Much of the documentation is in the form of correspondence: typescript, handwritten, or copied. Other types of records include ledger sheets, photographs, transparencies, photocopies, and newspaper and magazine clippings.
    The bulk of the firm's records were lost in a fire. The Getty Research Library holds French & Company stock sheets and ledgers in a separate acquisition (Accession no. 840027). The photographic archive of the firm was acquired by the J. Paul Getty Museum in 1971, and is now part of the Getty Research Library's Photo Study Collection (Accession no. 71.P.1 and 97.P.7).


    Indexing Terms


    Getty, J. Paul (Jean Paul), 1892-1976—Collectors and collecting
    French & Company (New York, N.Y.)
    Art—Collectors and collecting
    Art dealers—New York (State)—New York.
    Art galleries, Commercial—New York (State)—New York
    Tapestry—Collectors and collecting

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Architectural drawings
    Black and white photographs
    Color photographs
    Color slides


    Getty, J. Paul (Jean Paul), 1892-1976
    Samuels, Spencer
    J. Paul Getty Museum
    Spencer A. Samuels & Company