Christmas Cards for the Coes

Happy Holidays from Planting Fields! Although Planting Fields was primarily a Springtime residence for the Coe family, they did sometimes spend Christmas here. Some of their Christmas cards remain in our collection, including cards from artist Everett Shinn.

While W.R. Coe handled many of the correspondence regarding the building and furnishing of Planting Fields, Mai was responsible for creating the legacy of the family being patrons of the arts. She was the real driving force behind the one-of-a-kind pieces created especially for Planting Fields, including the Shinn paintings in Mai’s dressing room and in the Tea House. While we do not know much about Mai’s personal relationship with Everett Shinn, we do know they were friendly. This is seen in a print sent to Mai in June 1914. Shinn sent the print with a personalized sketch and poem for Mai. The inscription reads “To Mrs. Coe from Everett Shinn – June 12, 1914.  A little bird with wings of gauze, tethered to a rope of money. Fluttering in a painted cage, her work her food, applause her honey.” This poem denotes a sentimental friendship between the artist and his patron. Mai was often sick throughout her life, and this sweet poem about a delicate bird who is tethered within a painted cage seems to be hinting at his sympathy towards her. 

Everett Shinn, Untitled Print and Sketch, Ink on Paper, 1914, Planting Fields Foundation.

Shinn wrote to her again later in 1914 to wish her a Merry Christmas. The sketch depicts a woman in a fur coat, hat, and muff sitting in front of a fireplace, with a wreath hanging behind her.  It reads “To Mrs. Coe, from the Shinns. Merry Xmas 1914”.

Everett Shinn, Untitled Christmas Card, Gouache and Pencil on Paper, 1914, Planting Fields Foundation.

10 years later, the two were still in touch, as seen by Shinn’s Christmas card sent in 1924. This card appears to be a print rather than a personalized sketch, but it is hand signed by Shinn. The print shows a lively scene of women in typical 1920’s hairstyle and fashion dancing at a party. Mai died on December 28, 1924, following an extended illness, making this one of the last correspondence she may have received. In our current age of virtual well wishes via email and text, we are glad to still have these physical examples of holiday greetings between friends.

Everett Shinn, Untitled Christmas Card, 1924, Planting Fields Foundation.


 Emily Leger, Collections and Exhibitions Manager

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