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Girl with Dove

ca. 1805
Origin: America, Rhode Island (probably)
Unframed: 31 5/8 x 26 11/16in. (80.3 x 67.8cm) and Framed: 36 1/4 x 31 1/2in.
Oil on wood panel
Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller
Acc. No. 1933.100.3
A three-quarter-length portrait of a young girl seated on a bench in a landscape setting. She wears a high waisted empire style white dress with a blue sash at the bust line and blue ribbons on short sleeves. The wooden bench is upholstered in blue. She holds a brown dove in her proper left hand. Her brown hair is cut very short and curled at the top of her head. A tree fills the background behind her to the right and a mountain is visible to the distance to the left. The colors are pale, and the girl has brown eyes and rosy cheeks.
The 4-inch molded and gilded frame is possibly original.
Label:The identity of the girl in this portrait has never been adequately resolved, a matter that complicates precise dating and provenance; the painting's early ownership in Rhode Island is the only available documented clue.
The incidence of boldly stamped signatures on early nineteenth-century panel paintings of any type is rare, yet Thompson seems to have done it with some frequency. This type of mark is not commonly seen on his southern portraits, most of which were executed on canvas rather than wood panels.
There are a number of stylistic nuances in the picture that suggest the early (ca. 1805) date assigned here. When compared with the Cuthbert portraits from Virginia (acc. nos. 1956-271 and 1956-272), this likeness seems more ambitious in composition but less sophisticated in rendering. The modeling of the girl's face, while convincing, is devoid of the strong shadows and the smooth blending of middle tones that characterize the treatment of the Cuthberts. The overall quality of this portrait is technically sound, however, and was undoubtedly inspired by academic methods. In this respect, Thompson's work falls outside the purview of folk painting, representing instead the skillful accomplishments of those native artists who must have had considerable studio training.

Provenance:Elizabeth Church, Newport, RI; Purchased by AARFAM's donor, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, through the Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI.
Mark(s):Stamped beneath the paint in the lower left corner is "C. THOMPSON".