Portrait of Anna Webster Worthington Bull (Mrs. Isaac Bull)(1796-1830) and Her Daughter, Rebecca Reed Bull [later, Mrs. James L. Bowers] (1826-1912)
Origin: America, Maryland, probably Kent County
Unframed: 26 x 22in. (66 x 55.9cm) and Framed: 30 1/4 x 24 3/8in.
Oil on tulip poplar panel
Acc. No. 1964.100.6
A half-length portrait of a seated woman holding a baby on her lap. The woman sits sideways in her stencil- and gold-painted tablet-back side chair (only the tablet and one stile of which are partially visible). The woman is turned slightly towards the viewer's right. Her proper left arm is mostly hidden by the figure of the baby. Her proper right arm is bent at the elbow and, from that hand, she dangles a pocketwatch before the baby. The watch is attached to her bodice by a chain. The woman wears a black, long-sleeved dress secured at the waist by a gold-buckled belt. The sleeves are moderately puffed over the upper arms. A white lace collar is fixed at the center of her neckline by a blue bow. She wears two-tiered, circular, gold earrings. Her dark brown hair is pulled back from her face and curled in ringlets and held at the back of the top of her head by a tortoiseshell comb. She has hazel eyes. The baby's white cap and white dress are both adorned with blue ribbon. A double strand of irregular coral fragments, held by a gold clasp, circles the child's neck. The background is an overall greenish gray.
The 1 3/4-inch molded, stained frame is a modern replacement.
Label:In this picture, the time is 4:45 and Anna Bull knows exactly where her child is. She dangles a pocket watch before the baby, apparently hoping to amuse the youngster or lull her to sleep. Wide-eyed Rebecca seems distracted by the painter, however, and even Mrs. Bull’s attention seems divided between child and artist. The composition is an affectionate statement of maternal love and childhood innocence.
Rebecca’s granddaughter vaguely recalled that the picture was created in Kent County, Maryland, by an artist named “Mann.” No painter fitting that description has been identified, but the stenciled and gold-painted side chair is typical of those made in and widely shipped from Baltimore, directly across the Chesapeake Bay from Kent County. Costume details support their descendant’s memory that her grandmother was ten months old in the portrait. Baby Rebecca grew up to marry James Bowers and have eight children.
Provenance:From the younger subject to her daughter, Elizabeth Bowers (b. 1865) of Maryland; to her daughter, Bertha McCaully Emerson (Mrs. John Emerson)(b. 1885) of Chatham, NY, and Wilmington, Delaware.