The Schuyler Sisters and Their Circle

Portrait of Angelica Schuyler Church with her child and servant by John Trumbull, 1784, oil on canvas, private collection

JULY 20—DECEMBER 29, 2019

The Schuylers were a prominent Dutch family in New York in the 18th and 19th centuries, whose descendants played a central role in the formation of the United States. Renowned Revolutionary War general Philip Schuyler (1733-1804) and his wife Catherine Van Rensselaer (1734-1803) raised eight children in their Albany home. Interest in the Schuyler family has increased in recent years because of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, Hamilton: An American Musical, which prominently features the three eldest Schuyler daughters: Angelica Schuyler Church, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, and Margaret (Peggy) Schuyler Van Rensselaer.

Catherine Schuyler was the great-great-granddaughter of Killian Van Rensselaer, the original founder of the Dutch colony of Rensselaerswyck. Catherine’s marriage to Philip Schuyler linked two of New York’s great landholding families. Philip Schuyler was known to care about the education of his daughters and paid for lessons in French, geography, history, writing, arithmetic, music, and dancing. Catherine Schuyler raised their daughters with an awareness of their colonial Dutch New York heritage and their connections to members of the prominent Livingston, Bayard, Van Rensselaer, and Van Cortlandt families. 

The exhibition will discuss the wide-ranging intellectual, social, and political interests of Catharine and her daughters Angelica, Elizabeth, and Margaret (Peggy)— three sisters who witnessed history unfold in Albany, New York, Philadelphia, Paris, and London. As the wife of Alexander Hamilton, Eliza had a front row seat to events that shaped this country in the years immediately following the revolution. For many years, Angelica lived abroad where she entertained royalty, diplomats, and artists in Paris and London. She maintained life-long friendships with the prominent figures she met, like Thomas Jefferson, and patronized artist John Trumbull. Peggy married Stephen Van Rensselaer III who ranks 10th on Business Insider’s list of wealthiest Americans of all time.

The Schuyler Sisters and Their Circle will also explore the men the Schuyler sisters married, hosted, and befriended. Military, political, and intellectual luminaries of the day including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and the Marquis de Lafayette visited the Schuyler home in Albany.

The exhibition will use clothing, decorative arts, portraits, and manuscripts from the Revolutionary Period to the Federal Period to tell the stories of the Schuyler women. The exhibition will be installed in the second floor galleries of the museum. The Albany Institute has secured the loan of the rarely exhibited John Trumbull portrait of Angelica Schuyler Church with her child and servant from a private collection, and significant loans from Columbia University, New-York Historical Society, and the Museum of the City of New York among many others.

Exhibition Support

Major support provided by The Rossi Foundation. Additional support provided by Discover Albany, Lawrence & Louise Marwill, Patricia Perrella, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

 

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Season exhibition support is provided by Phoebe Powell Bender, Mr. and Mrs. George R. Hearst III, Charles M. Liddle III, and Lois and David Swawite.