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Maker(s):Davis, Jane Anthony
Culture:American (1821-1855)
Title:portrait of a woman (Lydia Bixby)
Date Made:1845
Materials:pencil; watercolor; gouache; wood; glass; paper; varnish?
Place Made:United States; Massachusetts; Webster
Measurements:Frame: 9 3/8 x 7 3/4 x 13/16 in; 23.8 x 19.7 x 2.1 cm; Sheet: 7 1/8 x 5 1/8 in; 18.1 x 13 cm
Accession Number:  HD 2014.19.79
Credit Line:D.J. and Alice Shumway Nadeau Collection
Museum Collection:  Historic Deerfield

Jane Anthony Davis (September 2, 1821 – April 1855) was an American artist. Until 1981 she was known only as J. A. Davis. Davis was born Jane Anthony in Warwick, Rhode Island, the daughter of Giles and Sara Robinson Greene Anthony. For a short while in 1838 she attended the Warren Ladies Seminary in Warren, Rhode Island; it has been posited that she studied drawing and painting at that institution. She married Edward Nelson Davis of Norwich, Connecticut, on February 1, 1841, and lived with him in that town for a time. On January 10, 1842, she gave birth to a child. The family moved to Providence, Rhode Island; there she gave birth to another child, her second, on April 26, 1847. In August 1854 she produced her last portrait, of Luella Hodges. She died of tuberculosis eight months later, and was buried in Swan Point Cemetery in Providence. It was common for women artists of the era to sign their work using only their initials, and Davis was no different in this regard; consequently, it was for many years assumed that she was male. In 1981 collectors Sybil and Arthur Kern identified the artist by name, further confirming their identification with two later reports. She produced miniature portraits, working in watercolor and pencil. Most of her subjects are depicted in three-quarter view, at bust length. Often they are clothed in black. Several characteristics appear in many of her depictions: a ragged part in the hair, bluish coloring of the eyelids, a wide and colored horizontal band below the bust, and negative space between the subject's arms and body. The artist sometimes incorporated flowers into her compositions. Many pieces were signed and dated; some also included the subject's name. Davis is known to have produced over 200 portraits, mostly of residents of the areas in which she lived. The subject may be Lydia Goddard Bixby (1825-1855) of Webster, MA, who married James Henry Bixby (1822-1908) on December 24, 1844. Their home in Webster was where the town hall is located today. An ardent Baptist and anti-Catholic, Mr. Bixby is said to have worn on his back a plaquard reading "Down with Popery." More than forty portraits are attributed to Jane Anthony Davis, of which only three are signed. The painter was known to have worked in Providence and Warwick, Rhode Island, and Norwich, CT. Half-length full frontal painted sketch of a young lady with short black hair parted in the center and looped around her ear; she has a gold earring and necklace around her neck; her clothing consists of a white lace collar and a black gown with tight sleeves, narrow bodice, and a full skirt, she sits in a Boston rocker or similar fancy chair; she holds an open book in her two hands; a little color has been applied to her cheeks, necklace, chair, and book. Ink inscription on back of portrait: “By J. A. Davis/ Nov. 10th, 1845” Impressed on front of drawing: “REYNOLDS/EXTRA SUPERFINE/ LONDON BOARD”


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