Jay Gould was a leading American railroad developer and speculator. He has been portrayed as one of the ruthless robber barons of the Gilded Age, whose success at business made him one of the richest men of his era. He was hated and reviled, with few defenders then or now. He purchased the Lyndhurst Mansion and grounds in 1880, an estate of more than 400 acres overlooking the Hudson River.
I made this image in his private study. It is an image rich in both atmosphere and mood, and provides insight into the man himself. His massive, handmade armchair lurks in the shadows. Gould operated his businesses in the shadows as well. He was the ultimate insider, and his attempt to corner the gold market triggered the Black Friday panic of 1869. Black is dominant here. But Gould was also a man of impeccable taste. He had this elegant Art Nouveau lamp custom-made by Louis Comfort Tiffany, the most famous art glass designer of his time. The blackness of this image creates a mood of mystery and dread, while the warmth and color of Tiffany glass offers, as counterpoint, the atmosphere of the Gilded Age itself.