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Portrait of Phebe Ann Carlton Hawes (Mrs. Philander Hawes)(1822-1881)

1843
Origin: America, Maine or Massachusetts
Other (Unframed): 13 3/4 x 9 7/8in. (34.9 x 25.1cm) Framed: 17 x 13 x 1 1/4in. (43.2 x 33 x 3.2cm)
Oil on cardboard
Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Paul Middleton
Acc. No. 1986.100.1
A near-half-length portrait of a young woman turned slightly towards the viewer's left. She wears a pale green dress whose details are outlined in black and a white bow held by a rectangular brooch at the neckline. The neckline is trimmed with a white ruffle. The brooch shows red and green flower sprigs on a black background set in gold. The woman also wears a diamond-shaped, gold, drop earring and a fine black necklace. She has pale gray eyes and reddish lips. Her dark brown hair is parted near center and drooped forward over her ears, then caught up in the back in plaits or a knot. The background is an unshaded taupe color.

The 1 7/8-inch, molded, cyma recta, mahogany frame has a gold liner and is possibly original. The picture is glazed with old glass.
Label:This portrait exemplifies William Matthew Prior’s flat portraiture or, as he phrased it, “without shade or shadow.” For such works, he first painted the head and hair, then suggested clothing and backgrounds with broad, sweeping brushstrokes, finally picking out facial features and other details with a small, pointed brush. The results were strikingly decorative. Thanks to the artist’s knack for capturing personal characteristics, his portraits also succeeded as credible likenesses.

Phebe Ann Carlton (1822–1881) was born in Frankfort, Maine, and married Philander Hawes there on October 26, 1843. The couple, who had four children, are thought to have lived their entire lives in Maine. It is unclear whether they traveled to Prior's post-1840 home base in Boston or whether Prior traveled to their locale. The latter possibility is suggested by a gap in the artist’s Boston advertisements.


Provenance:The portrait descended in the family of the donor, the sitter said to have been Dr. Paul Middleton's great-great-great-great grandmother. The line has not been fully reconstructed but seems to have begun thusly:
from the sitter to her son, Ulrich Hawes (b. 19 February 1859 at Levant, Maine and d. 11 February 1912 at Carmel, Maine); to his daughter, Mrs. Howard Middleton (Mildred Ethel Hawes)(1897-?); to . . . intervening generations to one of CWF's donors.
Inscription(s):"W. M. Prior/1843" is written in oil at left center verso. All digits of the inscribed date were reinforced in graphite prior to CWF's receipt of the object. N. B.: the left edge of the letter "W" has been trimmed slightly, and there are scattered areas of loss within the inscription. On the reverse of the top frame member at each outer corner appear to be letters. These are "M" (or"W") and "P", the latter with a seeming repeat of itself just below and to the side of it. This script appears to be in graphite. No inscriptions were found on the back of the primary support or on the wooden backboard.