SPECIAL ADVISORY: The Yale University Art Gallery is open to the public with expanded hours on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays and offers access to Yale ID holders on weekdays. Learn More

American Decorative Arts
Maker: Sarah Hooker Leavitt, American, 1797–1837
Gilder: Smith and Norton, American, w. 1810
Artist, formerly attributed to school of: Abby Wright, American, 1774–1842
Honorand: Ezra Stiles, American, 1727–1795

Memorial to President Stiles


Silk and metallic embroidery, watercolor, and ink on silk, in gessoed and gilt pine frame

22 1/2 × 26 1/16 in. (57.2 × 66.2 cm)
Mabel Brady Garvan Collection
Sarah Hooker Leavitt created this mourning picture to honor her grandfather Ezra Stiles, a Congregationalist minister and president of Yale College from 1778 until his death in 1795. Although some mourning embroideries from this period were created in the immediate aftermath of a family member’s death, most, like Leavitt’s, were embroidered years after the fact as decoration or to serve as a family record. Leavitt attended Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts during the spring and summer terms of 1808 and 1809. She may have done this embroidery there under the supervision of Jerusha Williams, the academy’s preceptress from 1806 to 1812. The white church depicted to the left of the funerary monument has traditionally been identified as the Second Congregational Church in Newport, Rhode Island, where Stiles was minister, while the small brick buildings on the right have been interpreted as part of Yale’s campus. Leavitt finished her embroidery sometime before the end of 1810: the back of the piece bears a label from the framing firm of Smith and Norton in Northampton, Massachusetts, who were in partnership only from July to December of that year.
Made in Deerfield, Massachusetts
Made in Northampton, Massachusetts
Not on view
19th century

Florence Mellows Montgomery, “Ceramics, Glass, and Textiles at Yale,” Antiques 117, no. 6 (June 1980): 1332, fig. 7.

Betty Ring, “Needlework Pictures From Abby Wright’s School in South Hadley, Massachusetts,” The Magazine Antiques (September 1986): 492, fig. P1.XI.

Helen A. Cooper et al., Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness: American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2008), 230, no. 129, ill.

Susan Schoelwer, “Sarah Hooker Leavitt’s Memorial to President Stiles: An Object Genealogy,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2015): 24, fig. 1.

Caryne Eskridge, “Sarah Hooker Leavitt’s Worktable: Women, Education, and Art Making,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2018): 62.

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.