Comedy and tragedy : the life of John Sanford Saltus


SAL record control number: 121884 ;

Record level: Listing ;

Record type: Exhibitions ;

Exhibition type: Permanent art collection ;


Title: Comedy and tragedy : the life of John Sanford Saltus ; 

Begin Date: May 15, 2022
End Date: August 21, 2022

Exhibition hours:
Monday 1:00 PM – 6:00 PM EST
Tuesday 1:00 PM – 6:00 PM EST
Wednesday 1:00 PM – 6:00 PM EST
Thursday 1:00 PM – 6:00 PM EST
Friday 1:00 PM – 6:00 PM EST
Saturday 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM EST
Sunday 1:00 PM – 5:00 PM EST

Location: Salmagundi townhouse, Print gallery ;

Admission: This event is FREE and open to the public


Beginning May 15, 2022 and continuing until August 21, 2022, Salmagundi presents Comedy and tragedy : the life of John Sanford Saltus.  The show, which features seventeen vintage photographs of the philanthropist mostly in costume, is an intimate portrait into Saltus’ life.  Saltus, who was possibly gay, married Medora Scott (Hubbell) Saltus (1846-1906) in 1885 and attempted again to be married to Estelle E. Campbell (?-?) in 1922 before she cancelled the day before the wedding.

Saltus was an unabashed Francophile and used his large inheritance to support the arts and commissioned many Joan of Arc statues in America, France and England.  He amassed an extremely large collection of Louis XVII books which he donated to Salmagundi.  The collection was sold off after Saltus’ death in 1922, but many other costume books given by him remain.  Today, the collection is still considered one of the larger private costume book collections in the United States.

J. Sanford Saltus was obsessed with costume, medals and coins (numismatics), Gypsy lore, Joan of Arc, France and costume parties.  He would attend and win costume prizes at balls around the world.  In most of the seventeen images on display, Saltus would be photographed in costume and then use the image as a postcard to send back to Salmagundi.

Saltus’ life ended tragically the day of his second wedding when his soon to be betrothed cancelled the festivities.  He was cleaning coins in cyanine and accidently or on purpose drank the deadly liquid.


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Record birth date:
May 7, 2022

Last updated: November 9, 2022 at 10:34 am