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Portrait of Abby Truman Greene (Mrs. Duty Greene) (1793-1865)

ca. 1835
Origin: America, Rhode Island, Providence
OH: 37 in.; OW: 31 in.
Oil on canvas
Bequest of William Kelly Simpson in memory of his wife, Marilyn Milton Simpson, and her grandfather, John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
Acc. No. 2018-192,A&B
Portrait of a woman wearing a black dress with a gold belt buckle, a red shawl and a large, tow tiered lace collar. She is wearing gold and red earrings as well as a gold and red pin to secure her collar. She is pictured holding a small book.
Label:Duty Greene (1792-1864) was born in Johnston, Providence County, Rhode Island to Samuel Greene and his wife, Mehitable Thornton. He is today remembered as was one of the most respected citizens of Providence, Rhode Island’s Christian Hill neighborhood during the nineteenth century. At various times, Greene was a member of city council, director and president of the High Street Bank, one of the first directors of the Worcester Railroad, and a director in the Arcade Corporation and City Hotel Company. As a young man he opened a small store on High Street near the Hoyle Tavern and was known for being the only apothecary on the western side of Providence. In 1818 he married Abby Pearce Truman (1793-1865), the daughter of Jonathan Truman and his wife, Mary Willett. The couple never had any children of their own but took in several of their nieces and nephews as wards.

One of the nieces that Duty and Abby Greene took in was the daughter of Abby’s sister, Lucy Ann Truman, and her husband, Francis Morgan Chapman. Born in 1845, Abby Pearce Chapman, was living with her aunt, uncle and three other cousins when the Greenes were recorded in the 1850 census. It appears that Abby Pearce Chapman was raised entirely by the Greenes since she is still listed as their ward on her marriage certificate in 1866 when she married Nelson Wilmarth Aldrich, but note that her parents were still living at this time. Nelson and Abby Pearce Chapman Aldrich likely acquired the portraits of Duty and Abby Greene after their deaths in 1864 and 1865, respectively, since the paintings were mentioned among their belongings at 110 Benevolent Street, also known as Aldrich House, about 1927.

Around 1927, the contents of Aldrich House were divided amongst Nelson and Abby’s five children. Nelson passed in 1915 and Abby Aldrich followed shortly after in 1917. Their daughter Lucy was given the home, which remained in the family until it was donated to the Rhode Island Historical Society; it now serves as the organization’s headquarters. It was during this time that their daughter, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, acquired the portraits of Duty and Abby. AAR wrote about the distribution of family items to her sister Lucy: “The division… went off most happily. I am delighted with my share. I have portraits of Aunt Abby and Uncle Duty Greene… Every time I go by them they recall to my mind our life at 110 Benevolent Street.” (Bernice Kert, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller: The Woman in the Family (New York: Random House, 1993), p. 243)

The portraits remained in Abby Aldrich Rockefeller’s possession through her lifetime and were among the items she and John D. Rockefeller, Jr., brought to Williamsburg in the 1930s.

Provenance:The sitter, Abby Truman Greene, to her niece and ward, Abby Pearce Chapman Aldrich, to her daughter, Abby Greene Aldrich Rockefeller, to her daughter, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Milton, to her daughter, Marilyn Ellen Milton, whose husband William Kelly Simpson bequethed the portraits to Colonial Williamsburg in her memory.