First, here's a picture of the house taken from their website (biltmore.com). It doesn't show the five million people that were there the day we were. (If you don't like crowds don't go on a Saturday. Altho I must say, the place is very well run and we had a very nice experience!)
As you go along the self-guided tour, you come to the Tapestry Room. My eyes were already starting to glaze over a little by this point, but I did turn around to look behind me and saw these portraits on either side of the door. Who are they? I wondered.
So I read the tour book, and lo and behold, the woman on the left is our very own Maria Louisa Kissam! She married William Henry Vanderbilt right here in Bethlehem on September 28, 1841. Pop over to this blog post from last year for the story about how they met.
What a fun surprise!
|That's Maria Louisa - portrait by John Singer Sargent.|
|And that's her son George Vanderbilt - who had this whole amazing Biltmore Estate built - |
portrait also by Sargent
|The portrait on the right is Edith Vanderbilt - daughter-in-law of Maria Louisa.|
Below is the whole write up that appeared in the New York Times when Maria Louisa died in 1896. I copied and pasted from Findagrave.com because I really want you to read it! I don't think she ever forgot her roots and upbringing in rural Albany County.
Mrs. W. H. Vanderbilt Dead.
Stricken with heart failure at Scarborough.
Mrs. William H. Vanderbilt died suddenly yesterday afternoon at the country residence of her daughter, Mrs. Eliott F. Shepard, at Scarborough, N. Y. of heart failure. She had suffered from a weak heart for several years, but her demise was entirely unexpected. Mrs. Vanderbilt had been at Mrs. Shepard's house for about three weeks, and was present at the wedding of her grand-daughter, Edith Shepard, to Ernesto Fabbri. About noo
Further along in the tour, in the Oak Sitting Room is the portrait below. The guide book says this is "Mr. Vanderbilt's aunt, Mrs. Benjamin Kissam." So a sister-in-law to Maria Louisa. It was also painted by John Singer Sargent.