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Portrait of Caroleana Carter Hall (Mrs. Elisha Hall)(1758?-1799)

ca. 1795
Origin: America, Virginia, Fredericksburg
Unframed: 30 x 25in. and Framed: 37 5/8 x 32 11/16 x 2 3/4in.
Oil on canvas
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 2004-62,A&B
A three-quarter-length portrait of a woman, seated. playing an English guitar having watch key tuning. The fingers of her proper left hand are positioned over the frets, the instrument rests in her lap, and, with her proper right hand, she reaches around the base of the instrument to touch its strings. A short, knotted, length of white fabric hangs from the neck of the guitar. She rests her proper left elbow on a white textile [a shawl? possibly bunched up and/or covering a small cushion?] set on an adjacent tabletop. She has black or very dark brown hair and brown eyes. Her hair falls loose behind her. A red drapery hangs vertically along the left side of the composition. She wears a light blue dress gathered in multiple horizontal bands across the bodice, the square neckline trimmed with a white lace ruffle. A white bow trims the front of the neckline, and a white sash with subtle red striping and gold fringe circles her waist, the fringed end of it hanging to the right of the body of the guitar and looking somewhat like a large tassel. The background is brown.

The present frame is a period (or slightly later) replacement, a 4 1/8-inch splayed, gilded molding having a stepped, flat inner liner and a quarter-round outer molding.
Label:Originally from Philadelphia, Dr. Elisha Hall lived in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where his patients included George Washington’s mother, Mary Ball Washington. Hall and noted Philadelphia physician Benjamin Rush were first cousins. In 1789, Hall sought Rush’s advice on treatment for Mrs. Washington’s breast cancer. Rush wrote that “there does not exist in the vegetable kingdom an antidote to cancers.” Mrs. Washington died a month later.

Charles Peale Polk painted these portraits of Hall and his wife, Caroleana Carter Hall, around 1795. Mrs. Hall’s portrait was clearly inspired by the likeness of Rush’s wife, Julia Stockton Rush. Mrs. Rush was depicted by Polk’s uncle, mentor, and painting teacher, Charles Willson Peale, in 1776. At that time, the younger artist lived with his uncle and learned the rudiments of the painting trade.
Provenance:The following line of descent (presumed to apply to both 2004-61 and 2004-62) was constructed in July 2004 based on CWF file notes, Frick Art Reference Library notes, and information provided by the family through which the portraits descended:

From the subject to her son, John Byrd Hall (1787-1862); to his daughter, Charlotte Carter Hall (1st, Mrs. Robert Pryor Hall and, 2nd Mrs. William Elmer)(1820-1909); to her brother, Charles Landon Hall (1837-?); to his brother, Marshall Carter Hall (1843-1906) of Washington, DC; to his son, Marshall Carter Hall II (1883-?) of Washington Grove, Md.; by 1983, to his daughter, Mary Lewis Hall (Mrs. James Carey)(1910-1986) of Baltimore, Md.; by 1999, to her daughter, Anne Thomas Carey (Mrs. William Boucher) (1938-2004), whose estate was sold at Alex Cooper, Auctioneers, Inc., 908 York Rd., Towson, Md., July 18, 2004. The two paintings were acquired by CWF at the sale.
Mark(s):The period replacement frames on both 2004-61 and 2004-62 bear remnant portions of the same press-printed label, reading, in a reconstruction derived from the two together: "The Veerhoff Galleries/Established 1871/1320 F Street Northwest/Washington, D. C." These partial labels appears on the back of the upper frame member on 2004-61 and on the back of the right (viewer's; from the back) side frame member on 2004-62.
Inscription(s):No original inscriptions found.