This pastel, along with the portrait of Marijke with White Feather Fan [PS 229], is Theodore Pitcairn’s first purchase in 1921, while travelling in Europe.1 Ernst Pfeiffer is the intermediary.
The purpose of the trip to Europe is, among other things, to find an artist who is able to execute portraits of the clergy and members of the church of the Pitcairn brothers and capable of expressing spirituality.2
At the end of 1921, Ernst Pfeiffer handled sending the two pastels to Raymond Pitcairn.3 In a letter sent to Theodore, who had been staying for months in South Africa, Raymond relays his critical appraisal of the pastel: "[…] As Smit’s other picture, I confess that when it arrived I/ did not care for it, although the glass was pretty well smeared over with/ paste. When I got it home and the glass was cleaned up an I looked at it/ from a little distance it looked better and I endeavoured to maintain an/ affirmative attitude toward it. I confess that I do not care much for it./ There is, I admit, an expression of wonder in the angel’s face which has/ a kind of fascination, and certainly the fact that it is intensely senti-/ mental should not prejudice its standing as a painting. To me, however,/ it does not seem to be a wonderful painting. […]"4
1. "[…] In Holland I bought/ two paintings or rather/ pastels from a friend/ of Mr. Pfeifer [sic] Philip[pe]/ Smit. I feel certain/ he is the greatest/ living artiste quite/ a young man. I/ wish he could come/ to B. A. [Bryn Athyn] and paint/ the Elder Bishop [PS 246]./ I met him and liked/ him very much. […]" (Theodore Pitcairn, ALS to his brother Raymond, 6 August , Glencairn archives).
2. See [PS 246], [PS 244] and Chronology 1921.
3. "I am writing you on behalf of my friend Mr. Philippe Smit, the/ artist from whom, as you probably know,/ Theodore has bought two pastels. […]" (Ernst Pfeiffer, ALS to Raymond Pitcairn, Scheveningen, 27 November 1921, Glencairn archives).
4. Raymond Pitcairn, LTS to his brother Theodore, Bryn Athyn, 5 April 1922 (Glencairn archives).