Arabella Duval Huntington
(c.1850-1924) was the second wife of American railway tycoon
and industrialist Collis P. Huntington
, and then the second wife of Henry E. Huntington
. She was once known as the richest woman in America, and as the force behind the art collection that is housed at the Huntington Library
Arabella Huntington was the second wife of Collis P. Huntington
. After his death, she married his nephew Henry E. Huntington
, who was also a railway magnate
and the founder of the famous Huntington Library
& Art Gallery in San Marino, California
. She had a son, Archer
Compared to her famous family, information about Arabella is scarce. She was apparently born in 1850 or 1851, probably in Virginia (see Wark, p. 312). Her first husband was a Mr. Worsham, of New York, who died shortly after they were married, leaving her with a young son (some other sources have suggested that they were not actually married, but that she was his mistress). (It has also been suggested that Archer's father was actually Collis Huntington, who legally adopted the boy when he was a teenager.). In 1877 she was able to purchase some property in New York, which was later sold to John D. Rockefeller. She married Collis Huntington in 1884 and was left a widow a second time when he died in 1900. Thirteen years later she married Henry Huntington. They were together until her death in 1924, and both are buried on the grounds of the Huntington Library. There is also a memorial to Arabella in the west wing of the Huntington Library building, which was dedicated in 1927, the year of Henry's death.
Throughout her life, Arabella was an inveterate collector of art, jewelry, antiques, and other luxury items. Her particular interests were in old master's, Medieval and Renaissance devotional images, and Louis XIV-XV furniture and decorative arts. At her death, the entirety of her fortune and collections went to her son Archer, who donated many of her paintings to the Metropolitan Museum of Art
, New York. These included two Rembrandts
, a Vermeer
, and several hundred other paintings. Many of the family's other belongings, including clothing, furniture, tapestries, and porcelain, were bequeathed to other institutions including Yale University
and the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco. Some are located within the collections of the Huntington Library itself, and these formed the basis of an exhibition about Arabella in the Spring of 2006 entitled The Belle of San Marino
.. It is interesting to note that only the small collection of Medieval and Renaissance paintings at the Huntington Library were in Arabella's own collection. They were purchased by Henry Huntington after her death from an auction set up by her son, Archer. The remainder of the objects in the 'Arabella Memorial Collection' at the Huntington were purchased after her death by Henry Huntington and are only representational of the objects she formerly owned, not the actual objects themselves.
Archer M. Huntington
Arabella Huntington's son Archer
shared her love for art and culture. He was a great friend of non-profit organizations, especially museums. He was one of the world's leading experts on Spanish poetry and was one of the founding fathers of the Hispanic Society of America
in New York City.
- Robert W. Wark. "Arabella Huntington and the Beginnings of the Art Collection." The Founding of the Henry E. Huntington Library and Art Gallery. San Marino, CA: Huntington Library, 1969.
- Wilson. The Mauseoleum of Henry and Arabella Huntington. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2005.