Thursday

Clark, Alvan - portrait of Ruth Morrison


This miniature portrait is signed "A Clark" for Alvan Clark (1804-1887), who worked in Boston, NYC, and Providence. Clark was more famous as a maker of telescopes and there is a comprehensive bigraphy of him written by Deborah Jean Warner called "Alvan Clark & Sons - Artists in Optics"

The sitter is identified by way of a newspaper clipping which states "Morrison - In this city, on Tuesday 29, Mrs Ruth Morrison, relict of the late Mr John Morrison. Aged 79 years and 8 days". This looks as if it was her death notice.

As Alvan Clark painted miniatures in New York City between 1827 and 1836, before moving to live in Boston, it is likely the sitter is the Ruth Burrill (Burrel) born Dec 13, 1775 in Lynn, Essex MA and who married John Morrison on May 29, 1799 in New York City. She appears to be around 55 in the portrait, which suggests it was painted around 1830. Most of Clark's later works are unsigned, thus this signed work is relatively unusual in that respect.

In the 1850 census, there is a record of John Morrison aged 75, born in Scotland, retired and with assets of $17,000. He was living with his wife Ruth aged 71 and two of their children, Matilda 26 and Pamela 25, at Cornwall, Orange, NY. This is most likely Ruth's family, despite the apparent contradiction in age, as there are many inconsistences in census details. Additionally, only wealthy people such as John was, could afford to pay for miniatures. 793

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I would like to add this portrait to the upcoming third and further revised edition of "Alvan Clark & Sons. Artists in Optics." Do you have any information on its provenance?

warnerd@si.edu

Don, the collector said...

Thank you for the interest. Regretfully I have no further information on the provenance as the portrait was purchased from an Ebay dealer. However, you are welcome to add the portrait into another edition of the book. I already have a copy of the second edition and think it is an excellent reference book.