THE WORLD OF SAMUEL MEEKER, MERCHANT OF PHILADELPHIA, AND GILBERT STUART, AMERICAN PORTRAIT ARTIST

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sarah Goodridge paints a miniature of Gilbert Stuart; her miniature given as a gift to Daniel Webster Stuns, Surprises, and fires up the Senses!

Miniature painting (most) commonly took the form of portraits done in watercolor on ivory in America during the early nineteenth century. This art form became very popular as the image of a loved one, encased in a metal and glass oval, was meant to be hung in a small space, or worn as jewelry or hidden in a pocket. The miniatures often held a lock of hair, were often mourning portraits, or as pictured below;
tokens of …..sensational intimacy…..

The minature of Gilbert Stuart below (1 7/8 x 1 5/8 in.) was done by Sarah Goodridge (1788-1853). He believed no one else could capture the essence of his personality. He valued this work and presented it to his mother in 1827, adorned with a bracelet woven from his own and his wife’s hair. Middle image; Sarah Appleton with her cat, Sanko by Goodridge. Third image, self portrait Sarah Goodridge.




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Sarah Goodridge painted two or three miniatures a week, enough to support her poor sick mother, her orphan niece, and other family members. Her career lasted for thirty years until her failing eyesight forced her to stop. She never married. She developed a friendship with the handsome young Boston lawyer, statesman and famous orator Daniel Webster. The first time she painted Webster's portrait, he was married with three children; she painted this intimate self portrait pictured just below, in 1828, the year of his first term as US senator. He sat for eleven more portraits over the next 25 years. The ‘friendship’ is documented in forty-four letters that Webster wrote to Goodridge between 1827 and 1851. While she carefully preserved letters from him, he seems to have carefully destroyed letters from her. When he moved to Washington to serve in government she visited him there twice. After Webster's wife nee Grace Fletcher died in 1827, Goodridge secretly painted this miniature for him entitled

"Beauty Revealed"


Sarah Goodridge (American, 1788–1835) Beauty Revealed, 1828 Watercolor on ivory; 2 5/8 x 3 1/8 in. (6.7 x 8 cm)The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Gloria Manney, 2006

While it is not certain what went on between these two friends, the stunning nuances of light and shadow and glowing tones of the watercolor on ivory
... speak more than words...

Webster was politically ambitious and needed money, and it seems Goodridge samt intimate portrait did not sway Webster’s emotions towards marriage, at least to her. He met and promptly married another woman, whose father was a wealthy and prominent merchant of New York.
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Daniel Webster by Gilbert Stuart 1825
From Lawrence Park Vol II
Daniel Webster (1782-1852)
Born in Salisbury (now Franklin), New Hampshire. Son of Ebenezer Webster and his second wife Abigail Eastman. Graduated from Dartmouth College in 1801. Took up the study of law first in Salisbury and later in Boston, where he was admitted to the bar in 1805, and began practicing at Boscawen; in 1807 he removed to Portsmouth, where he soon acquired distinction. In 1816 he returned to Boston. He soon became one of the foremost advocates of the country. In 1820 he delivered the oration at Plymouth in commemoration of the landing of the Pilgrims; this was followed in 1825 by an oration on the occasion of the laying of the cornerstone of the Bunker Hill Monument and by a eulogy on Adams and Jefferson in 1826—three addresses which established his fame as one of the great orators of the time. Upon the organization of the Whig Party, he became one of its leaders, and in 1836 received the electoral vote of Massachusetts for President. He was Secretary of State under Harrison and Tyler. Until his death he was active in diplomatic and governmental matters. Daniel Webster was married twice: first in 1808, to Grace Fletcher (1781-1828), by whom he had five children; and second, in 1829, to Caroline LeRoy (1797-1882), daughter of Jacob LeRoy of New Rochelle, New York. His only surviving son, Fletcher Webster, fell in the second battle of Bull Run, 1862.

Description of the portrait;
Boston, November, 1825. Canvas 36 x 28 inches. He is shown seated, nearly full-face, but turned slightly to his right, his right arm (hand not shown) resting on a table covered with a green cloth, upon which are two bound volumes lying flat one above the other. His left arm is resting upon the back of the chair. He wears a black coat, high white collar turned over at the edge, and a white frilled shirt. His dark brown eyes gaze with a steady, rather piercing, expression directly at the spectator, while about his mouth lurks the suggestion of a smile. The background is a very deep red or maroon. His hair, worn short, is dark brown, and his complexion ruddy. The books are bound in brown leather: one one is the word “Oceana,” and on the other “Con. U.S.” The portrait was painted for his and Stuart’s friend, Isaac P. Davis (1771-1855) of Boston, and hung for years in his parlor. “One day while visiting Mr. Davis, Webster stood for some time before the picture, and, making a low bow to it, said: ‘I am willing that shall go down to posterity.’” (A letter from Mrs. Isaac P. Davis to Jane Stuart, written from 18 Chauncy Street, Boston, but undated.) It was painted just after Webster had returned to Boston from Washington “looking pale and thin and far from well, yet the picture has the depth of expression for which he was so remarkable.”

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9 comments:

emikk said...

The scene back then was like a soap opera!, If the Guiding Light drew from some of these characters it would still be on the air!

Beth Ahrens-Kley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Clever Pup said...

Webster was a handsome man. Must have sold his soul to the devil.

WHAT a story you've told today. On one hand it's nice that she was recognized by Stuart as a good artist on the other I feel sorry that she was spurned by Webster.

Maureen said...

Ah, the intrigue! Very interesting story.

Beth Ahrens-Kley said...

I know, a spurned love is always sad, isn't it?

Webster certainly benefitted from the relationship, having all her portraits of himself come down thru posterity, but he probably didn't count on Beauty Revealed being uncovered ! Or, maybe he wouldn't have minded... he didn't destroy the little miniature...I hope he at least paid her well.

BTW this story is already known, if not widely, but I enjoyed putting images to the characters involved. It was a small world!

willow said...

This is all very intriguing!

I always find the jewelry made of human hair fascinating. This particular bracelet is so intricately woven.

David McCann said...

Please see (key words) Portrait of an Artist as An Artisan
by Professor Jane Kamensky

Page Three of her lecture is very telling where her tutor asks her "why do you want to know that?"

Do I have a reason to be angry at the attitude exhibited by many in the art world?

David McCann said...

The recent online auction by a Naples Florida firm an "on line auction house" makes me wonder -and while I emailed them asking them about the provenance of the portrait of "Admiral" Cyrus Blake (nothing received) - I sincerely think it was done by Stuart student James Frothingham

Brownie's Points said...

My ancestors were painted by Stuart; James Barry, Joanna Barry, Mary and Anne Barry. The portraits were left to my ggg grandfather James D. Barry, but James' portrait was sent to a university; Joanna's was confiscated by a rascally nephew Robert Barry and taken to Tenerife, and Mary and Anne, the daughters are in the Smithsonian (in storage presently). I'm still looking for Joanna's portrait. Interesting time in DC. :-)

Brownie MacKie

 
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