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American Paintings and Sculpture
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Artist: Thomas Sully, American, born England, 1783–1872

Memorial to His Mother, Sarah Sully

ca. 1801

Watercolor on ivory

1 1/2 in. (3.8 cm)
framed: 1 11/16 × 1 9/16 in. (4.3 × 4 cm)
1 3/8 × 1 3/8 in. (3.5 × 3.5 cm)
Lelia A. and John Hill Morgan, B.A. 1893, LL.B. 1896, M.A. (Hon.) 1929, Collection
1940.536
In 1792 Thomas Sully emigrated with his parents from England to Richmond, Virginia, and settled in Charleston, South Carolina, two years later. He learned to paint miniatures from Charles Fraser, a friend from his school years. As a teenager, Thomas painted this touching homage to his mother, actress Sarah Chester Sully, about seven years after her death. It was around this time that he began painting in earnest, creating his first miniatures of family members. At the close of 1801, the young artist recorded that he had painted ten miniatures that year, worth a total of $160. Assuming responsibility for the family of his late brother, Thomas married Lawrence Sully’s widow, Sarah, and moved the family to New York; Hartford, Connecticut; and Boston. Finally, in Philadelphia, Thomas found great success as a portraitist. According to his records, he executed approximately sixty portrait miniatures, nearly all before 1809, when he returned to England for study. Back home in 1810, his career continued to soar on a trajectory that had him painting the most eminent public figures and fashionable private citizens in the vicinity.
Geography: 
Made in United States
Status: 
Not on view
Culture: 
American
Period: 
19th century
Classification: 
Miniatures - Jewelry
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.