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Gloria Braggiotti Etting Photographs

Identifier: ETT

Scope and Contents

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."


  • 1935-1994, undated


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Gloria Braggiotti Etting Photographs are the physical property of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Archives. The Museum holds literary rights only for material created by Museum personnel or given to the Museum with such rights specifically assigned. For all other material, literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. Researchers are responsible for obtaining permission from rights holders for publication and for other purposes where stated.

Biographical / Historical

Often found in the center of Philadelphia's high society and other well-knowns, traveler, writer and endearing hostess Gloria Braggiotti Etting captured her experiences through her camera lens and through her published writings. Etting spent most of her adult life in Philadelphia, where she moved in 1938 upon her marriage to artist Emlen Etting and where the couple hosted numerous parties in their center city townhouse. When she died, local reporters described her as one "who gathered friends with the kind of passion others have for collecting stamps, art or butterflies."

Born in Florence, Italy, Etting was one of eight children. Her Italian American parents were singers who gave music lessons and recitals at their villa starring their students and their own children. Most of her siblings also pursued an artistic career: two were professional dances, one an actress, one a visual artist, and another a pianist. With the death of her mother, Etting's family relocated to Boston. During the 1920s she studied modern dance, later opening her own dance studio with two of her sisters. In 1931 she moved to New York City to dance and act, but instead took a job with the New York Post as a fashion editor. With her 1938 marriage to Emlen Etting in 1938, Etting again relocated. This time to Philadelphia, where she worked as an art ciritic for the Philadelphia Ledger. Over the next 25 years, Etting turned her globetrotting into a career as she wrote firsthand accounts of exotic travel destinations and jet-set fetes for Town and Country magazine and for Philadelphia newspapers. She memorialized her life in both pictures and words. In her 1957 book, "Born in a Crowd," Etting described the enchanting years of her childhood growing up under the Tuscan sun. In 1993, she published a book of photographs, "By the Way," which consisted of images of several hundred of her friends and others she met on her world travels. Anne d'Harnoncourt, the director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, wrote the book's introduction. Etting also wrote "Philadelphia, the Intimate City," which was published in 1968.

Emlen Etting died of Parkinson Disease in 1993. Five years later Gloria Etting married Alesandro Buonacuore and moved to Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. They later moved to Siracusa, Sicily, which is where Etting died on September 3, 2003 at the age of 94.

Works Consulted

  1. Braggiotti, Gloria. "Born in a crowd." New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1957.
  2. Gaiter, Dorothy J. "A fete in (and for) Rittenhouse Square." New York Times, 23 June 1984.
  3. Obituary. "Gloria Braggiotti Etting, 94, traveler, writer and hostess." Philadelphia Inquirer, 19 September 2003.


0.75 linear foot

Language of Materials



The Gloria Braggiotti Etting Photographs were taken primarily from the 1960s to 1980s and depict prominent citizens, noted artists, authors and celebrities. While some of the subjects Etting photographed are formally posed in portrait fashion, many are more candid images from social gatherings. Etting did not take all of these photographs, although it is unclear how many.


Alphabetical, by name of individual. Many of the photographs, however, are grouped randomly in folders identified as "Various."

Custodial History

Gift of Elizabeth A. Anderson, circa October 1995.

Processing Information

These materials were arranged and described by Bertha Adams. Funded by a grant from The Institute of Museum and Library Services.


Guide to the Gloria Braggiotti Etting Photographs
Finding aid prepared by Bertha Adams
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Funded by a grant from The Institute of Museum and Library Services

Repository Details

Part of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Library and Archives Repository

Philadelphia Museum of Art
PO Box 7646
Philadelphia PA 19101-7646 United States