At the Feb. 22 “Welcome Back the Bellomy Ladies,” an art introduction held at Central Park Library’s Heritage Pavilion, Hilary Keith shared how the library came into possession of three oil paintings by artist Ernest Narjot. Over a year ago in Oct. 2016, Keith received a phone call from an art curator in the City of Monterey regarding an offer of historic art. Since 1976, the City of Monterey was in possession of three portraits. These portraits shine a light on the ladies of the Bellomy family, former residents in the Santa Clara and San Jose area. About a year later, the portraits arrived at the library and the gift was formally accepted by the Santa Clara City Council.
“We are inviting the community to be introduced to these beautiful portraits and to learn more about our local history and a family that was here 200 years ago,” said Mary Boyle, the Santa Clara City Library’s Local History and Genealogy Librarian.
Boyle gave some history about the Bellomy ladies and their husbands. Attendee Dottie Wuss, 97, is a distant cousin of Maria de Jesus Bernal Bellomy, the matronly figure on the right of the three paintings.
“Maria de Jesus Bernal was a widow at about 24, and she’d also lost her five year old son,” Boyle said. “When George Bellomy came from Virginia on the Oregon Trail, he was in Sacramento for awhile and then he came down to Santa Clara. He became a Catholic. In 1820 California, to be a citizen, you had to be Catholic. They were married in 1845. They had a hotel and a business. You might recognize Bellomy Field from Santa Clara University—that’s named after this family. He died in about 1862 and she spent 20 years in courts defending her right to keep her property and her land. She looks very stern. She had a difficult life.”
The middle portrait, the largest of the three paintings, shows Rosa Fermina “America Anna” Bellomy Hoffman, the first child of Maria de Jesus Bernal Bellomy and George Bellomy.
“Rosa Fermina was born on July 7, 1846 and that was the day that California became part of America and so they called her “America Anna,’” Boyle said.
“She married Charles Hoffman in 1864. Charles Hoffman was a mining engineer from Kassel, Germany. He was superintendent of the New Almaden Quicksilver Mine in 1864. He left there after about three years and did other mining in Nevada County. Later he got gold mines in San Luis Potosi, Mexico and they also bought a coffee plantation here too. They were quite wealthy and were in a good place to be able to afford to have this beautiful portrait done by an accomplished French painter. His name was Ernest Narjot and he was a classically trained painter from France.”
On the left was the portrait of the young Rebecca Bellomy, daughter of George Bellomy Jr.
“Rebecca Bellomy was about 13 at the time of this portrait,” Boyle said. “About 5 years later, she got married to Blas Guerrero and they raised a family of six children in San Jose.”
Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor attended this event with Vice Mayor Kathy Watanabe and City Council Member Debi Davis. Gillmor pointed out that Bellomy Street runs adjacent to Santa Clara University and is a major artery of the City.
“The City of Monterey is so generous and thoughtful to make sure these portraits are in their rightful spot in the City of Santa Clara,” said Gillmor. “These portraits have such a huge significance in our local history.”