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Memorial Picture
about 1805
Embroiderer:Embroidered by Nancy Dunham , American, 1792 - 1860
Teacher:Taught by Sarah Pierce , American, 1767 - 1852
Frame Maker:Frame made by Ruggles & Dunbar , American, 1804 - 1806
Embroidery; silk thread, chenille yarn, watercolor on a plain-woven silk ground; glass, black paint, gold paint, wood
Primary Dimensions (height x width): 16 3/4 x 16in. (42.5 x 40.6cm)
Credit Line: Museum purchase
Gallery Copy: Combining a memorial tribute to her mother with a visual portrait of the family, twelve-year-old Nancy Dunham created a hybrid form that seems to have been especially favored in Connecticut. Her father, Captain Eleazer Dunham, stands behind his wife’s tomb, his face partially blocked. At right, the oldest daughter, sixteen-year-old Phila, kneels with the one surviving son, ten-year-old Ephraim. At left are three younger daughters, Nancy and eight-year-old twins, Dolly and Roxanna. Their faces are all hidden by sunbonnets and white handkerchiefs, thus eliminating the need for painting likenesses. Despite the somber subject, the original colors, on the unfaded reverse side, included bright pink flowers in the garland; pink, lemon yellow, and light green sprigs and plants in the foreground.
Description: Memorial picture worked in black, dark green, medium and light brown, blue-green, blue, tan, khaki, cream and white silk threads, brown and green chenille yarn, and blue, white, black and pink paint on a plain-woven white silk ground, using satin stitch and other stitches; the memorial picture is labeled "NANCY DUNHAM." and is in the original gold-painted frame (.b). The picture shows six figures, a man, a boy, two women and two girls, surrounding a large monument with an urn on top. All of the figures wear black clothing; the boy also has a blue coat. The faces are visible only on the woman and the boy to the right of the monument. The man stands behind the urn, and the woman and girls to the left of the monument are wearing bonnets and holding up handkerchiefs, so that their faces are covered. A hand-written inscription on the monument reads "Sacred to the Memory/ of Mrs. Lois Dunham, Obt/ August 25th AD 1804 Ae 43 yrs/ I will think of thy Departed Virtues and weep to thy/ Memory." There are weeping willows in the background. In the far back, at left, is a cluster of buildings, and at right, a small hill. The sky, faces, arms and inscription are hand-painted directly onto the silk ground. The memorial picture is worked inside a round area on a square ground; the ground has a strip of canvas sewn to the top and bottom edges. The picture is behind glass (.c) that is painted black around the embroidered picture; the embroiderer's name is hand-painted in gold at the bottom. The frame (.b, original) consists of one deeply curved band of molding with an applied rope-twist lining the inside of the molding, and has been overpainted with radiator paint. Stitches: The primary stitch on the memorial picture is a satin stitch; it also includes encroaching satin, long and short, outline, daisy, and french knot. Condition: The silk thread has moderate fading. The ground is removed from a stretcher. A small portion of the rope-twist molding is missing from the top left corner of the frame. The paint on the frame is flaking. The backing is replaced.
Historical Notes: Mrs. Lois Dunham died 25 August 1804 at the age of 43. Her daughter, Nancy Dunham, embroidered this mourning picture; her name is at the bottom of the glass in the frame. Nancy Dunham was a student at Miss Pierce's school in Litchfield between about 1804 and 1806.
Inscription: A hand-written inscription on the monument reads "Sacred to the Memory/ of Mrs. Lois Dunham, Obt/ August 25th AD 1804 Ae 43 yrs/ I will think of thy Departed Virtues and weep to thy/ Memory."
Object Number: 1959.2.2a-c
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