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Portrait of Polsapianna Bull Dorr (Mrs. Russell Dorr)(1783-1869) and Maria Esther Dorr [later, Mrs. John Henry Newman](1814-after 1869)

1814-1815
Origin: America, New York, Columbia County
Unframed: 38 x 29 7/8in. (96.5 x 75.9cm) and Framed: 41 5/8 x 33 3/4in.
Oil on canvas
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1958.100.15
Three -quarter length portrait of a seated woman holding a baby on her lap. The woman is turned toward viewer's right, with head turned slightly toward viewer. She sits in a green-painted thumb-back side chair,with gold striping and a gold leaf. She wears a black dress with short puffed sleeves gathered over the arm and a high, empire waistline. The neck is low and straight across, the bodice being covered by an embroidered sheer white fichu or kerchief that extends in points below the waist. Long sheer sleeves extend below the wrist with bows at the wrists. Her brown hair is gathered in a knot in back with side curls framing the face. The baby has a white dotted sheer dress and cap and lies on it's mother's lap with it's eyes closed. Background of the painting is a gray-toned pink.
The 2 1/2-inch scoop-molded frame, painted black, with quarter-round outer molding painted gold, is original.
Label:The pastel background of this portrait is characteristic of Phillips's so-called "Border Period," when he frequented communities on either side of the western Massachusetts-eastern New York boundary. The modeling of these early figures is unrealistically conceived and painstakingly applied, suggesting the artist's struggle to teach himself the rudiments of effectively representing three-dimensional forms.

Three children were born to Polsapianna Bull (1783-1869) and Russell Dorr after Phillips painted the family's nine members in 1814-1815. Thus Polsapianna was left with the task of raising ten children aged fifteen months to twenty years when her husband died prematurely in 1824. Despite the fact that Polsapianna never remarried, she managed to see her six daughters wed to prosperous men, while three of her sons became lawyers and one a doctor. Judging by Maria Esther's apparent infancy, one assumes the group of Dorr family portraits to have been painted within the year following her birth on April 16, 1814.
Provenance:From the adult subject to her son-in-law and daughter, Rev. Nathaniel Goodell Spalding and Harriet Dorr Spalding, Schodack Landing, NY; to their son and daughter-in-law, Nathaniel Bull Spalding and Cora Boyce Spalding, Schenectady and Schodack Landing, NY; to J. Stuart Halladay and Herrel George Thomas, Sheffield, Mass. Halladay died in 1951, leaving his interest in their jointly-owned collection to his partner, Thomas. Thomas died in 1957, leaving his estate to his sister, Mrs. Albert N. Petterson, who was AARFAC's vendor.