Lavish Portraits of Gilded Age Socialites

In the years following the Civil War, America experienced enormous financial growth, ushering in an era of big-bank, railroad, and oil tycoons, along with a sense that anything was possible, as long as somebody could foot the bill. Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner gave the period its name with their 1873 novel The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, establishing it as not just a time of wealth, but also a prosperous time for culture, when some of America’s greatest authors, from Henry James and Edith Wharton to Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, wrote some of their finest works.

Beauty’s Legacy: Gilded Age Portraits in America, on view through March 9 at the New-York Historical Society, showcases the era’s famously wealthy figures in a selection of breathtaking portraits; some were the nouveau riche, others came from old money, but if you were anybody worth knowing during the Gilded Age, you had a likeness of yourself painted and hung somewhere for all to see. Click through to enjoy a preview of the show.

Image courtesy of New-York Historical Society

Samuel Untermye, 1901

Untermye was a Jewish-American lawyer and civic leader, as well as a self-made millionaire, painted by Anders Zorn.