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Sign for Porter's Inn
1820-1825
Original Owner:Originally owned by Captain Joseph Porter , American, 1766 - 1826
Paint on pine board, blue smalt, gold leaf, iron hardware
Primary Dimensions (height x width including hardware): 67 1/4 x 24 3/4in. (170.8 x 62.9cm) Other (height x width of sign only ): 46 1/4 x 24 3/8in. (117.5 x 61.9cm)
Credit Line: Collection of Morgan B. Brainard, Gift of Mrs. Morgan B. Brainard
Gallery Copy: The allegorical figure on this sign represents Liberty as was common at the time, in neo-classical clothing and holding a staff with a “Liberty Cap” on top. The figure holds a shield with the arms of the State of Connecticut (the three grape vine motif) and sits on the ground surrounded by a cornucopia, representing the bounty of the land, and bales and boxes, probably representing manufactured goods.
Description: Images: on side 1: landscape with seated female allegorical figure, over traces of earlier version of same motif, framed in vertical oval; on side 2: landscape with large tree on left, small house on right, over traces of slightly different buildings, framed in vertical oval Text: on both sides: "J, PORTER"; no underlying text Construction: Single board, grain oriented vertically; cut into a shield shape, with applied oval molding and stylized laurel vine. No structural frame. Gilded balls are made in halves and glued around iron hanging straps.
Technique Note: Infra-red photographs and visible pentimenti indicate the existence of two or three paint campaigns on both sides, the upper two being similar in design. On side 1, an earlier version of the female figure was slightly larger and placed higher within the oval. A photograph of side 1 published in 1906 shows the present paint scheme in place and in visibly aged condition, with the woman's cheek damaged and the shield darkened. At some time between 1906-28, both cheek and shield were retouched, the latter with bright green vine clusters on a vivid yellow ground. Microscopic examination of paint stratigraphy in the shield indicates that the body of the shield was originally painted white, then overpainted first with red, then with a new white ground, followed by the present yellow. Patches of the same red paint were also found in the damaged area of the face, on the Liberty cap, in the sky (both sides) and elsewhere, possibly the effects of vandalism or an early attempt at restoration. Notably, the existence of the vine clusters are documented in Gay's description of 1904, indicating that enough of the original image survived to serve as a reliable guide for subsequent repainting of the Connecticut seal. On side 2, infra-red photographs reveal a slightly different building arrangement beneath the present one. No evidence was found confirming earlier speculation that this underlying imagery was a federal eagle. Paint stratigraphy also indicates three layers in the lettering, the lowest and top layers incorporating gold leaf. The smalt surrounding the letters may be associated only with the uppermost paint scheme, probably dating ca. 1830-50, when smalt was most commonly used. Historical Note: Original location. Porter's homestead stood in Farmington center, at the northeast corner of New Britain Avenue and High Street. Reportedly built in the first decade of the 18th century, the structure burned in January 1886.
Object Number: 1961.63.41
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