Angelica Schuyler Church was born in 1756, the daughter of General
Philip John Schuyler and Catharine van Rensselaer of Albany, New York. She
was one of eight children. Her father, Philip Schuyler was a Major General in
the Continental Army and an aide to General Rochambeau. He later became both a
member of the Continental Congress and one of the first senators from New
York. Angelica's mother, Catharine, became famous in her own right through a
painting entitled Mrs. Schuyler Burning her Wheatfields on the Approach of
the British 1777.
Angelica eloped with her husband John Barker Church, a British businessman, in the same year. John Church, also known as John Carter, had fled England after a duel and had become successful in America. He served as General Washington's Commissary General during the war. After the war, Mr Church became a member of the British Parliament, and the family settled in a house at Sackville Street, London. Angelica was well-connected also through her sister Elizabeth's marriage to Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton wrote several lively letters to his sister-in-law.
Mrs. John Barker Church, Child, and Servant|
John Trumbull ca. 1785
(on loan from the Belvidere Trust Collection through Mr. and Mrs. Robert Bromeley)
Trumbull was a close friend of John Church and had served with him in the Continental Army. Angelica first met Trumbull in London in 1784 where he was a member of the social elite surrounding the Prince of Wales. Trumbull later executed portraits of Jefferson for both Angelica and Maria Cosway.
The business affairs of Mr. Church placed Angelica in a high social
London, and she was a member of the royal circle. She entertained both
diplomats and artists alike in her salons, which included prominent figures
such as Pitt, Trumbull, Burke and the painters, Richard and Maria Cosway. Her
husband's activities took Angelica to Paris, which she loved, where she
broadened her social horizons. Angelica was regarded as, not only a beautiful
woman, but a woman of intellect and sensibility. Her confidance was sought by
some of the foremost men and women of the Enlightenment. She corresponded
throughout her life with the figures she met in Paris, particularly the
Marquis de la Fayette and the Marquis de Talleyrand. She was the patron and
muse of numerous artists and writers, including Trumbull and the Marquis de
It was in Paris that Angelica was introduced to Thomas Jefferson by their mutual friend Maria Cosway in 1786/87. Angelica maintained a life-long friendship with both Jefferson and Cosway which is delightfully preserved in the letters of the Church Archive. Jefferson's daughter, Maria, attended a convent school with Angelica's daughter, Kitty, and they remained friends. In addition, Jefferson regarded Kitty Church as something of a ward during the years she was in school in France.
Home of Angelica Schuyler Church
(photograph donated by Mr. Robert Bromeley)
Angelica and John Church returned to America to reside permanently in New York. Villa Belvidere was the house she had built on her return and may be sited on the land referred to in the letters of General Schuyler. The design of Villa Belvidere is traditionally ascribed to Latrobe.
Angelica returned to America from her life in London in 1797 and built a
mansion in New York. In 1804, her brother-in-law, Alexander Hamilton died as
a result of a duel with Aaron Burr. Her correspondence with Jefferson does not
cover that period, and her owns thoughts are not known. Her daughter Kitty
continued to write to Jefferson and his letters to her are cordial. Her sons
may have remained in London, as evidenced by her letter of 1811, the only one
in the collection by her hand. Angelica valued her friendship with Maria
Cosway until her death in 1815, and she was mourned by Maria in a letter in
which she yearns for all her lost coterie. Maria designed a ceiling
decoration for a temple to Angelica. As a tribute to their friendship,
the Three Graces carried garlands encircling her friend's name.
Dupin Engraving of St. Aubin painting|
(on loan from Dr. and Ms. Aris Stylianopoulos)
St. Aubin, an Academic painter, was fond of the genre of recording aristocratic visitors to the annual Salons which became a social event in the Ancien Régime. The lady is probably a vignette from one of his views of the Salon engraved later by Dupin. Both regular Salon exhibitions and state patronage were a part of the eighteenth century artistic circles in Paris.
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