October 20, Siwanoy Country Club, while off duty, Police Chief Chris Satriale responded to a report from the Bronxville Historical Conservancy of a stolen painting.
BHC Co-Chairs Erin Saluti and Bill Zambelli had gathered 180 guests for the unveiling of a recent acquisition of a winter landscape painting by Henry Hobart Nichols. Following some introductory remarks by Saluti and founding Lifetime Co-Chair Marilynn Hill, the velvet curtain was removed and the crowd gasped to find a framed emoji cartoon rather than the original Nichols’ painting. Working quickly to secure the crime scene, Chief Satriale assured the crowd the mystery would be solved and the painting returned before the evening was over. This was not reported on the Bronxville police blotter because this elaborate ruse was part of Framed, the Conservancy’s 20th anniversary gala celebration.
Framed Gala Chairs Erin Saluti, Suzanne Pratt Davis, Judy Foley, and Michelle McBride and their creative committee of Tina Adams, Hilary Blumenreich, Lisa Rao, and Jennifer Russo were the clever schemers behind the bogus heist, producing a genuine evening of entertainment and fun. Guests were treated to an interactive murder-mystery performance, threaded through cocktails and a sit-down dinner. Table assignments quickly turned into investigative teams competing to solve the crime and catch the culprit. Team members mulled about the room, collecting clues and interviewing suspects. The surprising suspects included Bronxville’s own Mayor Mary Marvin as Princess Vespa, Dale Walker as Laura Crafty, Betsy Putnam as Mabel, Annette Healey as Virginia Beach, Molly Bianco as Anita Bath, Peter Thorp as Luke Warm, Jon Davis as Max Power, and Scott Samios as Skip Rope.
After convincing the crowd of their alibis, the Princess, Laura Crafty, Virginia Beach, Anita Bath, Luke Warm, Max Power and Skip Rope were eliminated as suspects and applauded for their compelling performances. Although turning in a terrific performance, Mabel, aka Betsy Putman, could not fool the crowd and was ultimately charged. Having solved the crime, the original painting was returned and finally presented to the crowd.
Hill and art historian and curator Jayne Warman concluded the evening with the true and accurate account of the special painting and its artist. Henry Hobart Nichols (1869-1962) born in Washington, DC, the son of a noted wood engraver. He studied both in Washington and Paris. In 1910 he bought a large plot of land overlooking Sunny Brook in Lawrence Park West, built a house and settled in Bronxville until his death. He contributed much to the artistic life of the village and to the New York art world. Nichols was highly respected among his peers for his integrity, sincerity and high idealism. He served as president of the National Academy of Design, a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and a director of the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation. Winter’s Day will hang in Bronxville Village Hall as a part of the Conservancy’s collection of Bronxville art works.
Eleanor Pennell, a former member and long-time Bronxville resident, bequeathed the painting to the Conservancy. Pennell died in January this year. The gift reflects her commitment to the Conservancy and the Bronxville community and serves as a lasting legacy inspiring future generations.
As guests left the gala celebration, each was presented with a postcard image of the Nichols’ painting, a box of chocolates, and their photo mug shots taken during the evening’s investigation.