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Portrait of Mrs. David R. Peirce (Sarah Wilbur)(1808-1871)

Origin: America, Massachusetts, New Bedford
Unframed: 16 1/8" x 12 1/8" and Framed: 22" X 18"
Oil on academy board, framed and glazed
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1989.100.4
Bust-length portrait of a woman facing right. She wears a white cap with ruffle, black dress over a white, collared, buttoned shirtfront or dickey. She poses before a red drape with looped tassel cords and a cloud-filled sky.
Label:William Matthew Prior was shrewd, capable, and versatile. Surviving portraits and newspaper advertisements make it clear that he adjusted his method of painting to suit customers' pocketbooks. For bargain-hunters, he worked in the so-called "flat" style represented here. Freed from the necessity of rendering painstaking modeling and shading, the artist could work quickly --- and therefore cheaply.

Prior captured three generations of a single family in the five Peirce portraits owned by the museum. In addition to this representation of Sarah Wilbur Peirce, these show Sarah's husband, David R. Peirce (1806-1885), David's parents, Abraham Peirce (1779-1850) and Mary Hafford Peirce (1779-1848), and a son of David and Sarah, Walter Adams Peirce (1838-1913). A bust to half-length pose that excluded hands was the cheapest option Prior offered in full-scale portraiture.
Provenance:Currier (see "Vendor") stated that he acquired this portrait and its companions (1989.100.1 through 1989.100.3 and 1989.100.5) from a descendant of the sitter: a sister of Arthur Thomas Peirce (b. 1915) of Berkley, Mass.
Inscription(s):Painted on the backboard is, "Mrs Sarah W. Peirce/Aged 37. 1845/By Wm M. Prior".