William Poundstone
William Poundstone on Art and Chaos

William Poundstone’s Los Angeles County Museum on Fire

Arabella the Muse

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The Yale University Art Gallery has put on a view a group of lunettes by muralist H. Siddons Mowbray, commissioned for Collis P. Huntington’s Fifth Avenue mansion. The beautiful model for the muses was Arabella Huntington—later the mistress of the Huntington estate, San Marino. The painting above shows Arabella as a Genius of Electricity, holding a light bulb.

Arabella was a Holly Golightly character with a mysterious past. This article calls her a “courtesan” and—good grief—she’s in this Pintarest board of tarts. Arabella was introduced to New York Society as Collis Huntington’s niece. She went on to marry her “uncle” (who wasn’t her uncle) and then to marry his nephew—Henry Huntington—becoming the world’s weathiest woman. Despite that turn of events, she piously wore black ever after Collis’ death. The Mobray paintings of a lithesome young Arabella contrast with the formidable older portraits you may have seen at the Huntington Library. It’s said that New York’s smart set never accepted Arabella, and she felt that San Francisco was beneath her. If she had an opinion of Los Angeles society, it probably would have been less favorable than of SF.

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