First it hung on the walls of the American Academy in Rome; then in 1932 it followed its owner, Gorham Phillips Stevens, to Athens where he served as Director of the American School from 1939 to 1947. We don’t yet know what wall it graced at the School or where it hung in Stevens’ house on Kanari Street in Kolonaki, but we do know that the portrait left Greece after his death in 1963, bound for his nephew William Vaughan in Maine. And there it stayed for fifty years until Stevens’ great niece, Ellen Vaughan, wrote in April to ask if we wanted the portrait to come back to the American School where she felt it belonged. The portrait arrived in Athens at the end of June, and will be displayed in the Main Reading Room this week.
Gorham P. Stevens (1876-1963) was forty-nine years old when Salvatore Lascari painted his portrait in 1925. He had already been the Director of the Academy for thirteen years (including an acting directorship) and would continue in that office until 1932. Lascari (1884-1967), an Italian-American painter, spent three years at the Academy (1911-1913) before returning to the States to establish a studio in New York. He must not have stayed there long because we find him back in Europe from 1919 to 1927 (this time with his wife, the sculptor Hilda Gustafson), and it was during that period that he painted Stevens’ official portrait. Lascari's signature appears in it on the side of a table, below Stevens’ left hand.
Works by Lascari are exhibited in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the National Academy Museum in New York, and the Newark Museum. In our portrait it appears that Lascari may intentionally have tried to capture Stevens' spirit, which Fikret Yegül has eloquently described in Gentlemen of Instinct and Breeding (1991, p. 100): “he lived a generation too late for the proper appreciation of his remarkable talents and sentiments…”.