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Portrait of Mrs. Thomas Harrison (?-?)

1815 probably
Origin: America, Massachusetts, Boston (probably)
Unframed: 33 3/4 x 23 3/4in. (85.7 x 60.3cm) and Framed: 38 x 30in.
Oil on basswood panel
Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller
Acc. No. 1931.100.16
A seated, half-length figure of a woman facing right. In the background of the portrait is a red drape. A gray feather is afixed to the sitter's hair with a pearl clip. She wears pearl drop earings, a four strand pearl necklace, and a black oval ring surrounded by pearls. She holds a fern-like sprig in her right hand. Her prominant facial features have been outlined in red shading, especially along the nose profile which lays flat against the face. The complexion of the sitter is rosey, and cork screw curls of brown hair fall onto her shoulder. She is seated in an arm chair. The artist has diagonally scored the panel with a rowel. The panel is prepared in two pieces and glued together with two horizonal braces screwed to the back.

The 2 3/4-inch molded gilded frame is a modern replacement.
Label:Mrs. Harrison's striking likeness ranks among the most successful ever produced by Belknap; his signed and dated portraits range in date from 1807 to 1848, thus placing this painting (and its companion, of Capt. Thomas Harrison, acc. no. 1931.100.15) relatively early in the artist's career. Mrs. Harrison is described with an economy of lively brushwork, yet the exaggerated curls, proliferation of paste jewels, rakish feather headpiece, and linear dress ruffles combine to give her an extraordinarily decorative appearance.

Belknap produced more than 170 portraits in Massachesetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. Characteristics of his style include bold outlining and red-hued shading. The majority of his portraits were painted on wood panels, many of them scored with diagonal lines (as are the Harrisons) in order, it is thought, to simulate the appearance of twill-weave canvas and to help the pigments adhere to the surface.
Provenance:Found in New York by Edith Gregor Halpert, Downtown Gallery, New York, NY; purchased from Halpert November 9, 1931, by Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, by whom given to CWF in 1939.