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Maker(s):Porter, Rufus (attributed to)
Culture:American (1792-1884)
Title:Miniature Portrait of Sarah L. Hilliard
Date Made:circa 1820
Materials:watercolor and pencil on paper; fabric mat; original reverse painting on glass; gilt frame
Place Made:Massachusetts: Cambridge
Measurements:Frame: 6 3/4 x 5 3/16 x 1 in; 17.1 x 13.2 x 2.5 cm; Sight: 4 3/8 x 3 1/2 in; 11.1 x 8.9 cm
Accession Number:  HD 2023.8.10
Credit Line:Gift of Juliene and Carl M. Lindberg
Museum Collection:  Historic Deerfield

Profile portrait of a woman, proper right view. She is wearing a blue dress, white ruffled collar, and a white cap. Curls of dark brown hair peeking out from under her cap. Gilded wood frame with dark brown (possibly faded from black) fabric mat and reverse painted and gilded glass with an oval sight. Inscribed on reverse: "Sarah L. Hilliard daughter of Capt. Joseph and Anna Loverin Hilliard [portion of inscription lost] April 17, 17 [portion of inscription lost] Picture of about 1820 [20 overwritten with 05]
Modern handwritten tag attached reads: "Lot 18 Portrait of Sarah L Hilliard, daughter of Capt. Joseph and Anna Loverin Hilliard Sister to Abraham Hilliard (see other portrait) She was born 4/17/1780"

Label Text:
After a brief formal education and attempts at various trades, Rufus Porter embarked on a career as an itinerant miniature portrait painter around 1820. At that time, small, handheld watercolors were extremely popular as they proved a more affordable way to permanently capture images of family members. To support his business, Porter printed a handbill advertising his prices of 20 cents for a silhouette, $2.00 for a watercolor “side” view on paper, $3.00 for a frontal view on paper, and $8.00 for a miniature on ivory. Based on surviving examples, most of his portraits were side views and many have frames with rope turnings and distinctive reverse-painted glasses with gold ray details thought to have been provided by the artist. Porter used his own version of a camera obscura, a time-saving device which helped him capture the profile of his sitter, which he then painted. Although he streamlined part of the process, Porter's watercolors demonstrate remarkable precision and exacting detail, such as the ruffles on Susan Hilliard’s collar and dress as well as the strands of hair at the nape of her neck.


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