Woman in Pink Bow and Brooch
Origin: America, Probably New England
Unframed: 13 7/8 x 10 1/8in. (35.2 x 25.7cm) and Framed: 17 5/16 x 14in.
Acc. No. 1958.100.53
A half-length portrait of a blue-eyed woman, her hands not shown, her body turned three-quarters towards the viewer's left, her eyes on the viewer. Her center-parted, dark brown hair is pulled away from her face and secured at the back of her head, where an irregular outline suggests that it is braided. She wears a dark, bluish-green, long-sleeved dress with a white, lace-trimmed collar. A pink bow is centered on the front of the collar with a 9-stone paste brooch over its knot. A black cord encircles her neck (but the item suspended from it is not shown). Swags of a grayish red and dark gray drapery appear above her head; a black, red, and white cord and tassel hang over the drapery to the viewer's left.
The 2 1/8-inch splayed mahogany-veneered frame with flat outer edge is probably original. The outer edge has an inlaid border of alternating light and dark woods.
Label:Demand for inexpensive oil likenesses ballooned as the first half of the nineteenth century waned. A number of portraitists obliged by painting flatly, that is, by simplifying or eliminating the subtle transitions between lights and darks used to produce the convincing illusion of three-dimensional form on a two-dimensional surface. Because flat pictures could be painted faster and more easily, they could be sold more cheaply.
William Matthew Prior (1806-1873) was a versatile, highly skilled artist who painted flatly --- or not --- by choice. Others simply lacked the proficiency to paint otherwise. Only a handful of artists associated with Prior's flat style of portraiture are known by name. Others, like the creator of the Museum's picture, remain unidentified. Many, both named and unnamed, incorporated face framing drapery punctuated by dramatically lit and colored tassels as shown here.
More than two dozen portraits by the artist of 1958.100.53 have been recorded.
Provenance:J. Stuart Halladay and Herrell George Thomas, Sheffield, Mass. Halladay died in 1951, leaving his interest in their jointly-owned collection to his partner, Thomas. Thomas died in 1957, leaving his estate to his sister, Mrs. Albert N. Petterson, who was AARFAC's vendor.