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Maker(s):Tuthill, Abraham Gulielmus Dominey (attributed to)
Culture:American (1776-1843)
Title:portrait: Mary Duncan Wells
Date Made:ca. 1823
Materials:oil, board, wood, gilt
Place Made:United States; New York State; Oneida or Watertown
Measurements:overall: 32 in x 26 1/2 in; 81.28 cm x 67.31 cm
Accession Number:  HD 2010.5.2
Credit Line:Gift of Thomas W. Storrow in memory of Cornelia R. Storrow
Museum Collection:  Historic Deerfield

One of a pair of half-length, oil portraits of Mary Duncan Wells (1798-1882) and her husband Judge Daniel Wells (1791-1854) of Greenfield, Massachusetts (HD 2010.5.1), which are possibly painted by Abraham Gulielmus Dominey Tuthill (1776-1843). Daniel Wells, Jr. graduated from Dartmouth College and served as Preceptor of Deerfield Academy in 1812. He then studied law with his brother-in-law Elijah Alvord, and became a member of the Franklin Bar Association in 1813, eventually heading the organization for thirty years. Wells was district attorney for four western counties from 1837 to 1844, when he was appointed Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas, a position he filled until his death in 1854. Wells married Mary Duncan (1798-1882) of Peterborough, New Hampshire, in Preble, Courtland County, New York, in 1823. The portrait depicts a young woman with reddish-brown hair arranged up on her head in braids and pin curls, brown eyes, and an aqualine nose; she is dressed in a black dress with puffed sleeves and a high waist with belt, a white lace fishu around her collar, and a red shawl at her shoulders, and is painted against a brown background. The gilded frame is from a later 19th century date and is very damaged and flaking. A label on the back of the frame reads: "FROM / JOHN GOLDEN / Picture Frame Manufacturer, No. 26 Green St., up one flight, / Near Revere House, BOSTON. / Frames of all kinds Made to Order on reasonable terms." Abraham G. D. Tuthill was born in Oysterponds, NY in 1776. As a young man he came to the attention of Sylvester Dering of Shelter Island who recognized his budding talent and recommended him to a relative, William Broome, of New York. Thanks to Broome’s contacts, a very distinguished group of men, including Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and George Clinton provided funding to send young Abraham Tuthill to London in 1800 to study with the eminent American-born painter Benjamin West who was mentor to numerous young American artists. Tuthill’s talents, however, never reached the proficiency of other West students such as Gilbert Stuart or Samuel F. B. Morse. Tuthill returned to America by 1808 and became an itinerant portrait painter traveling back and forth to the mid-West. He ultimately settled in Vermont where he died in 1843. Although these paintings are not signed, Tuthill typically paints his noses rather similarly and almost all of his works (male & female) have full rounded chins that differ from the treatment of most other painters. Mary Duncan (1798-1882) of Peterborough NH married Daniel Wells, in Preble, Courtland Co, NY in 1823. These portraits are almost certainly occasioned by their wedding. Preble is 86 miles south of Watertown NY and 35 mi SW of Oneida NY, communities in which Tuthill was working at the time, in addition to Oswego & Rochester. In fact, he spent most of his time in this area from c1817 to 1830, with few exceptions. Historic Deerfield thanks Jon Bernard for sharing his research on these portraits.


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