Scope and Content Note
Like a visual social register, Gloria Braggiotti Etting's photographs, taken primarily from the 1960s to 1980s, record some of the most prominent Philadelphians, as well as noted artists, authors and celebrities. While some of the subjects Etting photographed are formally posed in portrait fashion, many are more candid as they casually mingle at black-tie dinners and other social gatherings. Her most frequent subject was her long-time friend and world-traveling companion, Henry P. McIlhenny. Long associated with the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA), McIlhenny fostered a reputation as benefactor to many of the cultural arts in the city, and as a celebrated host both here and at his country estate in Donegal County, Ireland. Most of Etting's photographs of McIlhenny record his frequent entertaining at both homes as well as a few of the masterpieces from his important collection of fine and decorative arts. Other individuals depicted include writers Tennessee Williams and Jerre Mangione, several PMA directors and curators, American composer Ned Rorem, and the artists Hobson Pittman, Franklin Watkins and Emlen Etting, whom Gloria married in 1938. As Etting notes on some of the photographs, her subjects were often those her husband was painting at the time.
Etting did not take all of these photographs, although it is unclear how many. The most obvious ones are those stamped on the verso with another photographer's name. There are also a significant amount of photographs in which Etting herself is one of the revelers, posing alongside well-known personalities such as Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Frank Sinatra. Also included are a few photographs of the artist Nelson Shanks at work on a portrait of Etting.
For many of the photographs, Etting identified each person. Few, however, are dated, and it is likely that the date spans given here, particularly on the McIlhenny folders, were approximated during the original processing. Several pieces of correspondence written by a few of Etting's subjects are also included. Most are from Ned Rorem, as well as a published score of his 1970 composition "Gloria."