Deborah Lyde Brinley: Goddess in Colonial Boston and Margaret Kemble Gage: Sultana of the American Revolution
Carrie Rebora Barratt, Metropolitan Museum of Art
A Saturday two-part illustrated lecture, part 1 of 2
John Singleton Copley (1738–1815). Mrs. Thomas Gage, 1771. Oil on canvas, 127 x 101.6 cm (50 x 40 in.). Timken Museum of Art, Putnam Foundation Collection, San Diego
Mrs. Francis Brinley and Her Son Francis, John Smibert (American, Edinburgh, Scotland 1688–1751 Boston, Massachusetts), 1729, Oil on canvas, 50 x 39 1/4 in. (127 x 99.7 cm), Rogers Fund, 1962, 62.79.2
In eighteenth century America, a fine painter offered clients more than just a portrait: he promised pleasing truths and renditions of reality. In other words, artists undertook likenesses not so much for the art of painting but rather as an assignment devoted to the astute depiction of people of a particular time and place. And he understood that, especially when painting women, a portrait would embody vanity, personality, character, occupation, social standing, age, and beauty. Portraits became surrogates for their sitters: this lecture takes a close look at two colonial American women through their portraits.
Deborah Lyde Brinley was a wealthy and socially prominent Bostonian when John Smibert painted her in 1729. Seated in front of a costly and rare-to-Boston fruit laden tree, she holds her swaddled baby son, Francis on her lap. Further correlating the dual aspects of goddess and the Blessed Virgin, she clutches a sprig orange blossom symbolizing both purity and fertility.
Margaret Kemble Gage was a New Jersey born Daughter of Liberty in a politically mixed marriage to Thomas Gage, general and commander of British forces in North America. In 1771, John Singleton Copley, depicts her draped in a bejeweled turban lolling on a masculine looking chair. Her dress and posture equate her with a sultana: exotic and melancholic. Her compelling image conveys her life while alluding to the alleged secret life she led.
Perhaps our only speaker to appear on a segment of The Colbert Report, Carrie Rebora Barratt is Curator Emeritus of American Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Deputy Director for Collections and Administration. She led the team that re novated the galleries for American Paintings and Sculpture and has lectured and published extensively. Her most recent Forum lecture was “Gilbert Stuart: At Home and Abroad” in December 2004.
A graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago, Dr. Barratt received her M.A. from the University of California at Los Angeles in and her Ph.D. from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.