Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Portrait of the Week - Deborah Malbone Hunter

Dearest Readers
It's back to Rhode Island and artist Cosmo Alexander, we give you his portrait of Deborah Malbone Hunter of Newport for your consideration.  This portrait painted in 1769 is owned by the Preservation Society of Newport County.  Deborah was 30 when this was painted, eight years after her marriage to William Hunt (my guess also the age of her daughter in the painting).

Lots of things to notice here.  It almost looks like our artist is trying to adopt that "classical studio look" that Copley so often used, but doesn't quite get it.  From the neck up, he captures it -- that no jewelry, natural hair look, but from the neck down, we have a perfect example of a period gown rather than the drapey robe you frequently see in the classical type portraits.  Who knows whether this was the artist's choice or that of the sitter, but either way, there are lots of clothing details to ponder.

We see the ribbon trim on her sleeves -- set several inches above the sleeve flounces - similar to the sleeve treatment we saw in Eunice Devotion's portrait

Again we see the sheerest linen used for her handkerchief, and her very finely made shift sleeves showing from under her sleeve flounces.

We also have the opportunity to look at the clothing of her daughter.  The artist shows us the seaming in the bodice of her back fastening gown and the simple but lovely sleeve treatment.  Of particular note is the daughter's beautiful posture and the width of her chest - possibly the result of wearing stays since birth as well as the watchful eye of her mother - making sure her daughter carried herself in an manner appropriate to her station. Her gown is simply adorned and she wears no handkerchief, which is pretty typical in portraits of young girls.

So are you seeing a trend in the clothing of our New England woman?  Over the coming weeks we will look at women from the other colonies as well as to compare them to English women of the same time period.


Mrs. S


1 comment:

  1. The color on the front section of the girl's bodice is different, both from the sides and sleeves, and the bit of skir that shows. Is that an overlay of sheer silk or linen, or a bibbed apron pinned up that matches the cut of the gown perfectly?