03 February 2010

Art of the Genealogist

On a recent Antiques Roadshow, appraiser Kathleen Harwood, had this to say: "Mr. Stiepevich, for an artist who painted such lovely paintings, has very scant biographical information. We know he was born in Russia, probably around 1840, and that he died in New York City, probably around 1910. Clearly he was very well trained as a painter."

A veritable call to action for a genealogist!

Vincent Stiepevich appears in US census records in 1880 (Elizabeth, NJ), 1900, 1910, and 1920 (all Brooklyn, NY). In the latter three census records, he states that he came to the U.S. in 1872. I love this entry for 1880 (click to enlarge). You can read his biography through the birth locations.

According to New York vital records, his wife Francesca died in 1912 and he died in Brooklyn on October 9, 1921 as "Vincenzo G. Stiepevich."

According to his 1887 passport application on Ancestry.com, he was born in Italy on Sep. 14, 1841.

The appraiser was quite correct when she said that he was well trained as an artist. Here is a snippet from an article about him in The Monthly Illustrator of 1895.

The article goes on to say that he was trained at the Royal Academy of Venice by Karl Von Blaas from the Austrian Tyrol. Stiepevich became a member of the Royal Academy of Milan in 1868. In 1872 he received a commission to decorate the Chamber of Commerce in St. Louis, Missouri and he came to the U.S. and eventually settled in Brooklyn. This is the same chronology borne out in the census records!

Somebody must have decided at some time that Stiepevich sounded Russian. His works have even been auctioned in collections of Russian art by major auction houses. If the name Stiepevich does not sound Italian, note that there is a street in Rome named for Italian war hero Danilo Stiepovich from Trieste. Close variants of the name are found in nearby Dalmatia, Montenegro, and Croatia.