It was June 1890, and Charles L. Hutchinson, then-president of the Art Institute of Chicago, together with Martin Ryerson and two other museum trustees, were making a purchase of no little significance. The art dealer? The renowned Parisian gallery of Durand-Ruel and Company. The source? None other than Princess Demidoff (formerly Princesss Lise Troubetzkoi), widow of the late Prince Paul Demidoff of the Florentine branch of the Russian noble family founded by Count Nikolai Demidoff. The paintings? Let’s look at the bill of sale: Hobbema, Rembrandt, Steen, and Van Dyck, and that’s just for starters. These Demidoff paintings, however, were just a small part of a larger purchase from Durand-Ruel, primarily of Dutch and Flemish paintings, that was intended to jump-start the Art Institute's brand new collection.
And to show what good taste these gentlemen had, a quick search revealed that at least two of these paintings—Jan Steen's The Family Concertand Gerard Terborch'sThe Music Lesson—are still in the museum's collection!