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Miss Hallam as Imogen

1771
Origin: America, Maryland, Annapolis
Unframed: 50" x 40 1/4" and Framed: 56" x 46" x 3 1/2"
Oil on canvas
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1956-296,A&B
A picture of a young woman standing before the mouth of a cave. She is dressed in exotic garb, including pink, gathered trousers beneath an open-front pink wrap, a long, embroidered pale blue coat, and a blue, feathered cap or hat. A sword scabbard hangs by her side, and she holds the drawn sword in her proper right hand, gesturing with it back towards the cave. Her proper left hand is drawn up, palm outwards, in a conventional gesture of protest. The rockery forming the cave occupies the left three-quarters of the composition. The right quarter reveals a distant river valley, with three men somewhat nearer.
The 3 1/2-inch carved and gilded "Maratta-style" frame is possibly original. (See the notes to the painting's conservation/framing file taken 2/2/2006).
Label:Peale’s picture of Nancy Hallam is rare because of its subject matter and association with the American theater. She is shown here in the role of Imogen, who is disguised as the boy Fidele, in William Shakespeare’s play Cymbeline. Performed by the American Company of Comedians in Annapolis, Maryland, in the fall of 1770, the show played next in Williamsburg, Virginia, and then returned to Annapolis for the fall 1771 season. In November of that year, the Maryland Gazette published verses that praised the picture and Peale’s authorship of it.
Hallam was probably the niece of Lewis Hallam Sr., manager of the American Company. She performed as one of its leading actresses until 1774, when she left for Kingston, Jamaica.
Provenance:Peale apparently created this painting for his own collection. He exhibited it at the Annapolis Theatre during the performance of "Cymbeline" in October 1771, later hanging it in his painting room and, still later, in his Museum at Philadelphia. In an 1854 sale, it was listed in the accompanying catalogue as a landscape, no. 246, and was bought by one "Baird." Its whereabouts for the next 75 or so years remain unknown.
About 1930, the painting is believed to have been acquired by dealer Dorsey Griffith of New Market, Md. (but a mid-century interview with him by Marguerite Kumm states that Griffith could not remember when and from whom he had acquired it). From Dorsey Griffith to his [former] wife, dealer Hilda C. Griffith of Arlington, Va. From Hilda Giffith to an unidentified dealer in Northern Virginia in August 1953. Purchased the next day from the unidentified dealer by Miss Marguerite Kumm of Vienna, Virginia. Purchased from Kumm by Colonial Williamsburg in 1956. [See file correspondence with Kumm, especially her letter to Charles Coleman Sellers dated 18 February 1964].