Artist of restored painting sought fame and fortune

Italian Juglaris lived in Paris before coming to America

Matthew Hileman
Matthew Hileman

The University of Pittsburgh at Bradford is restoring a lost 19th century masterwork painting that hung in the Emery Hotel. In 1964, the hotel was reincarnated as one of the university’s first residence halls. Once “The Emery” became a dormitory, the painting was stashed for safe keeping and forgotten for 55 years. In his third installment, Pitt-Bradford instructor of art history Matthew Hileman writes about the painting’s artist, Tommaso Juglaris.



It was in the late fall of 2019 when I arrived at an unassuming warehouse surrounded by high weeds at the far end of a gravel parking area in the industrial part of Bradford. The warehouse was part of the complex of buildings owned by local contractors Carl E. Swanson and Sons Construction. Bradford was having one of its signature unseasonably warm autumn days, and I was there to look at, of all things, a painting that had recently been uncovered and belonged to the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford.

Besides being curious, I had been asked to give my opinion as someone who, in another life, had spent a number of years working in the art world and had handled everything from 10th-century Chinese tomb wares to impressionist masterpieces by Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

In my experience, everyone who discovers an “old” painting immediately believes they’ve stumbled upon a lost masterpiece. Working for one of the most prominent galleries in the country, I spent the better part of a decade fielding phone calls, letters, and emails from people from all over the world who purported to have in their possession everything from original paintings by Raphael to lost works by Pablo Picasso. Needless to say, as I arrived in the warehouse that day to see what we had uncovered, I was skeptical.

What turned out to be hiding inside a hulking, dusty crate in a little-used warehouse with broken windows and warped floorboards, however, was something completely unexpected. Over the coming weeks and months, myself and Patty Colosimo, Pitt-Bradford’s director of art programming, would begin to uncover the extraordinary story and history of a painting that had once hung alongside works of some of the world’s most famous painters, vying for attention in the highly competitive world of the famed French Academy.

The story begins in France in 1880. An Italian artist named Tommaso Juglaris (the j is pronounced like a y) is living in Paris and has just received an invitation from America to become an art director for Louis Prang and Co. in Boston. Prang, a powerhouse of American popular lithography, now known as the “father of the American Christmas card,” was one of the most successful art publishers in America. Juglaris, who’s vision was to become one of the great painters of his age, declined the invitation choosing instead to remain in Paris, which was at that time the epicenter of the art world. 

Juglaris, like hundreds of other artists in the 19th century, had dreams of seeing his paintings hanging in the Louvre or adorning the dining rooms of Europe’s most powerful elite. But he quickly learned that fame does not come easily, and artists could die in poverty while waiting to be recognized for their talents.

After several invitations from Prang in Boston, Juglaris decided to accept. Without knowing a word of English, he packed his belongings and left for America. He took with him several of his canvases. One of them, a 13-foot-wide history painting titled “Promenade in Venice, Sixteenth Century,” would eventually make its way into the warehouse of Carl E. Swanson and Sons on the east side of Bradford. 

The relationship between Juglaris and Prang proved to be difficult. Juglaris, a fine artist who had trained with Thomas Couture, one of the greatest painters and instructors in 19th-century Europe, did not like taking art direction from an American lithographer who printed die-cuts for children’s scrapbooks. Prang was not a man to accept criticism, and when Juglaris walked off the job, Prang wielded his influence to vindictively see to it that Juglaris would not be able to find employment anywhere in Boston. 

Still knowing very little English, and having no social connections to speak of in America, Juglaris made his way to Philadelphia, where he met John Sartain, a British-born artist and prominent member of Philadelphia society. Sartain was determined to help a fellow artist from overseas, and sometime in 1880, he arranged for the sale of “Promenade in Venice” to Pennsylvania Sen. Lewis Emery of Bradford for $3,000 -- approximately $74,000 in today’s currency.

The money would not only save Juglaris from financial ruin but would allow him to eventually develop a lucrative career in the United States as a muralist and prominent art instructor.

For the next forty years, “Promenade in Venice” would be part of Emery’s collection -- a dazzling array of weapons, paintings, sculptures and other treasures purchased on his many trips to the furthest corners of the globe. After his death in 1924, his collection was dispersed, and “Promenade in Venice” would make its way into the Emery Hotel, opened by the late senator’s daughter, Grace, in 1929.

The painting came into the possession of Pitt-Bradford in 1964, when the newly founded regional campus of the University of Pittsburgh acquired the Emery Hotel as the school’s first dormitory. Pitt-Bradford’s first president Dr. Donald E. Swarts had the painting removed for temporary safekeeping. It was professionally crated and sent to Swanson and Sons for storage, where it was soon forgotten and would remain for nearly sixty years.

Tommaso Juglaris, never rose to the heights of some of the more notable artists of his time, despite having exhibited at the Paris Salon between 1874 and 1880, and mingling in circles which included such literary luminaries as Victor Hugo and Guy de Maupassant.

His name frequently appeared in contemporary art publications during his lifetime, and he was a respected and influential instructor who would go on to teach at the Boston Art Club, the Rhode Island School of Design, the National Academy of Design in New York and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. His immigrant status frequently stood as a roadblock to his success.

Among his most notable students were the American Impressionist painter Childe Hassam and the famed Boston watercolorist Sears Gallagher.

Juglaris was married twice and frequently traveled back and forth between America and Europe. In 1906, he returned to Italy for the last time and after World War I, opened an art school in Moncalieri, where he would die six years later. We will never know if Lewis Emery and Juglaris ever met. It is unlikely given that the artist never knew that “Promenade in Venice” had been sold to the Bradford millionaire, believing all of his life that Sartain had sold the work to the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.