American Paintings and Sculpture
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
Artist: Unknown

Romance Allegories

1793

Watercolor on ivory

each: 1 1/8 × 3/4 in. (2.86 × 1.91 cm)
sight in case: 1 1/2 × 1 in. (3.81 × 2.54 cm)
attached to bracelet: 2 3/4 × 2 1/4 in. (6.99 × 5.72 cm)
Gift of Caroline Hillman Backlund and Hermione Hillman Wickenden in memory of their mother, Dorothy Woodruff Hillman
2002.104.1-.2

David Mumford gave this pair of romantic vignettes to his daughter Abigail when she wed Thompson Phillips in Connecticut in 1793. The facility with which the diminutive scenes were painted suggests that they were executed by an English itinerant artist. In one image, a gentleman emerges through the bushes, surprising a lady with a dog, a symbol of fidelity. The other image illustrates a scene from Fanny Burney’s popular English novel Cecilia, or Memoirs of an Heiress (1782): the older man (at center) introduces Cecilia, the rich heroine (at left), to Henrietta, the poorer woman (at right). The fictional Cecilia values character over wealth, made evident in her choice of husband and friends.

Tokens of love, these miniatures descended on the maternal side of the Mumford-Phillips family for generations. Around 1850, the original, simple bracelets were replaced by intricate cut-gold filigree bands made in Paris. These alterations may have been made to mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of Abigail Martha Phillips and John Porter, whose 1825 marriage date is inscribed on the reverses of the miniatures. The decision to update the miniatures attests to their continued significance to family members.

Geography: 
Probably made in United States
Status: 
Not on view
Culture: 
American
Period: 
18th century
Classification: 
Miniatures - Jewelry
Provenance: 

Gift from David Mumford to Abigail Chesebrough Mumford (Mrs. Thompson Phillips), 1793; by descent in the family to Ann Duryea Phillips (Mrs. David Lee); Abigail Mumford Phillips Lee (Mrs. John Porter); Anna Phillips Porter (Mrs. Alonzo Glover Beardsley); Caroline Porter Beardsely (Mrs. John Harmon Woodruff); Dorothy Woodruff (Mrs. Lemuel Serrell Hillman; Caroline Beardsley Hillman Backlund and Hermione Woodruff Hillman Wickenden; Gift to Yale University Art Gallery

Bibliography: 

Erin E. Eisenbarth, Baubles, Bangles, and Beads: American Jewelry from Yale University, 1700–2005 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2005), 8-9, checklist, no. 16, fig. 3.

“Acquisitions 2002,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2003): 135, ill.

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.