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American Paintings and Sculpture
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
Artist: William Dunlap, American, 1766–1839
Subject: Eleanora Westray Darley, American, 1780–1849

Eleanora Westray Darley (1780–1849)

ca. 1805

Watercolor on ivory

3 × 2 3/8 in. (7.6 × 6 cm)
Lelia A. and John Hill Morgan, B.A. 1893, LL.B. 1896, M.A. (Hon.) 1929, Collection
Known as the first historian of American art and the “father of American drama,” William Dunlap authored the History of the American Theatre (1832) and the History of the Rise and Progress of the Arts of Design in the United States (1834). Following an unsuccessful period of study in London with Benjamin West, Dunlap returned to New York in 1787, where he became involved in the theater, first as a playwright and then as a theater manager. The sitter of this portrait miniature, Eleanora Westray, was a member of Dunlap’s company. Born in England, Westray made her debut as an actress on the stage in Boston in 1796, two years before joining Dunlap’s company at the Park Street Theatre, where she performed the role of Joanna in The Deserted Daughter by Thomas Holcroft. Dunlap recorded in his diary that Westray “exceeded my expectations [as] Joanna … her figure was very beautiful, she spoke with propriety tho’ not with sufficient energy.” By 1804 he found her “much improved in opera and the loftier branches of her profession.” Dunlap may have painted this portrait to celebrate Westray’s recent marriage to the actor John Darley on December 4, 1804. After the financial failure of Dunlap’s theater company in early 1805, he returned to painting, a profession he had earlier considered. This lovely rendering of Mrs. John Darley marks Dunlap’s transition between careers, honing his skill as an artist while using a theatrical friend as his subject.
Made in United States
Not on view
19th century

YUAG receipt for miniatrues received from Mrs. John Hill Morgan on Oct. 18, 1940, has pencil notation "Ehrich" next to this object: is this where Morgan bought the miniature?

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.