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Lydia Sigourney
1828
Subject:Portrait of Lydia Howard Huntley , American, 1791 - 1865
Painter:Painted by Francis Alexander , American, 1800 - 1880
Painting; oil on panel in gilt wood frame with gesso decoration
Primary Dimensions (image height x width): 14 x 11 7/8in. (35.6 x 30.2cm) Frame (height x width x depth): 20 1/2 x 18 x 3in. (52.1 x 45.7 x 7.6cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Janet Bacon
Description: Bust-length portrait of a young woman. She wears a red shawl with a wide border over a black dress with a wide neckline trimmed with gauze or lace.
Subject Note: Lydia Huntley Sigourney presented this painting to her daughter, Mary Huntley Sigourney Russell, on 24 November 1864. Mary H. Sigourney was born in 1828, the year that the painting was executed in Boston. Biographical Sketch: Lydia Howard Huntley was born in Norwich, Connecticut, on 1 September 1791, the only daughter of Ezekial and Sophia Wentworth Huntley. She began her public career as a schoolteacher in Norwich and later, under the patronage of Daniel Wadsworth, she opened a school in Hartford. Among the pupils in her select school for young ladies in Hartford were the daughters of Dr. Mason Fitch Cogswell, one of whom, Alice, a deaf-mute, enlisted her sympathy and a life-long interest in education for the deaf. With her marriage to Hartford merchant-banker Charles Sigourney (1778-1854) on 16 June 1819, Lydia Sigourney closed her school, but throughout her life she continued to take an active interest in the education of the young. In addition to authoring a number of successful readers and children's instructional volumes, Mrs. Sigourney gave support and encouragement to several nineteenth-century educators, including Henry Barnard, Emma Hart Willard and her sister Almira Hart, Lincoln Phelps, Catharine Beecher, Mary Lyon, and Elihu Burrit. Lydia Sigourney's first book, Moral Pieces, was published anonymously in 1815, under the auspices of her patron, Daniel Wadsworth. Followed in 1822 by Traits of the Aborigines, a long poem celebrating Native American life for which Charles Sigourney supplied the historical notes, it marked the beginning of a literary career which would produce more than thirty books and hundreds of fugitive pieces in the periodicals, anthologies, and gift books of the day. Lydia Sigourney's works were ranked on a par with Longfellow and Bryant, and her sales equaled theirs. An indefatigable promoter of her own literary career, she also assisted and encouraged the efforts of John Greenleaf Whittier, Gideon Wells, Anne Stephens, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. In addition to her life-long interest in education, especially of women and the socially disadvantaged, Lydia Sigourney was an advocate for a host of nineteenth-century causes. Among those which enlisted her support were the fair treatment of Native and African Americans, temperance, the peace initiatives of Elihu Burritt, foreign missions, and a number of causes sponsored by the Protestant Episcopal Church. Lydia Sigourney bore five children, two of whom, Mary Huntley Sigourney Russell (1828-1899), and Andrew Maximilian Bethune Sigourney (1830-1850), survived infancy. Lydia Sigourney died in Hartford on 10 June 1865.
Inscription: On verso of panel, in black ink, "Portrait of / Mrs. Lydia Huntley Sigourney, / taken by Alexander in Boston, in 1828, / and presented by her at Hartford, Conn. / To Mrs. Mary Huntley Russell / as a Thanksgiving Memorial / November 24th 1864". In pencil, "[Now?] the property of Rev. Francis G. Russell / Apr 1873 / Waterbury, Conn.".
Object Number: 2005.125.1
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