In Adele Uddo’s years with the Opera Women’s Guild, she visited the attic of the guild’s historic home on Prytania Street many times.
But one item, tucked away beneath the eaves, went undetected for decades.
“It’s a big attic and has several rooms,” she explained. “But one day, when our tenant was up there, he came across something quite astonishing.”
It was a portrait of Nettie Kinney Seebold, the opera lover who willed the house and all of its contents to the guild when she died in 1965.
Today, the portrait hangs in the home’s double parlor, near a portrait of her father, William Henry Kinney.
“It is as if the wall was just waiting for her,” Uddo said.
The home was designed in 1858 by noted architect William A. Freret for merchant Edward Davis. When it was built, it was a Greek Revival, double-galleried sidehall house with Ionic columns at the first level and Corinthian columns at the second.
After Davis lost his fortune in the Civil War, Freret took over ownership of the property in 1867. The house was altered significantly and enlarged in the 1880s by a different owner who made it into a centerhall home with an octagonal turret on the upriver side.
Nettie Seebold and her husband, Dr. Herman de Bachelle Seebold, purchased the house at Prytania and Second streets in 1944 for $12,500, just $2,500 more than it cost to build 85 years prior.
Herman Seebold was the son of arts patrons W.E. and Lisette Seebold, according to Jim Frasier’s 2012 book on the Garden District. He was also a collected painter, a physician and the author of “Old Louisiana Plantation Homes and Family Trees,” published in 1942.
Nettie Seebold was a landscape artist from Wichita who met her future husband at an embassy ball in Washington, D.C., before he went to Europe to fight in World War I (a portrait of Herman Seebold in his military uniform hangs in the house on Prytania).
The couple married in 1922, and Herman Seebold died in 1950. In the interim, the couple traveled the world and spared no expense collecting fine art and furnishings that would fill their home and make it a showplace.
Nettie Seebold’s bequeathal of the home to the women’s guild was a gift that continues to give. The spectacular, historic building is available for special events, and the income from those occasions benefits the New Orleans Opera Association.
“We aren’t sure exactly how long it was up there (in the attic) before it was discovered,” said Uddo. “But it was not in perfect condition. We had it restored before we unveiled it at a tea for our members in September.”
The “restoration” was a multistep process. The original that had been tucked away in the attic was a photographic portrait, and the photo needed to be repaired and touched up.
The next step was to transfer the photographic image to canvas. Finally, an artist applied paint to create the appearance of an original oil portrait.
“Having a portrait of Mrs. Seebold in a prominent place in the house was long overdue,” said Uddo. “It is such a wonderment that it actually happened, but sometimes, things just fall into place.”