Carpenter, Meriva - portrait of self

Miniature self-portraits are rare and so this is self portrait by Meriva Carpenter (1802-1887) is very interesting.

On the reverse there is the inscription shown which reads "Meriva Carpenter - painted by herself - 1838. Meriva daughter Dr Ruggles and Juliana Pierce Carpenter was born April 28, 1802 in Ellington Tolland Co. Conn. Married to Eli, Feb 1820 son of Dr Eli and Abigail Baker Carpenter of Orford, Grafton Co. New Hamps here at Tolland, Tolland Co, Conn. Then moved in March 1820 from Greenwich, Hampshire Co. Mass. to Homer, Cortland Co NY for a permanent home".

Research has indicated that Meriva and Eli were cousins. There is also a sachet of hair marked as shown "My Hand writing and Hair - Meriva Carpenter - Homer". For Meriva's burial place see Glenwood Cem Alpha List CA names. Her husband Eli Carpenter (1793-1863) is also buried there.
Two additional comments can be made. Firstly, how different, and more interesting, miniature portrait collecting would be, if this amount of information were behind all portraits!

Secondly, and sadly, this Collector did bid at a subsequent 2005 auction which included two equally well signed and identified miniature portraits of her parents, painted by Meriva Carpenter. They are shown above, the portrait of Dr Ruggles Carpenter was dated 1836 and that of Mrs Julian Pierce Carpenter was dated 1838. Regretfully, they went far above the estimate ($1955 price sale as against $600-$800 estimate) and thus, as the under bidder, this collector was only able to reunite Meriva with her parents to the extent of placing these images together.

Details of Meriva's parents burial can be seen at Town of DeRuyter, Old Burying Ground
For more information on the family, please see the attached comments where a very helpful Carpenter family historian has provided some more information about the family, including the fact that Carpenterville NY was named after the family. Information about early Carpenterville is contained at History of Homer, New York 719
Also showing here is a second miniature self portrait of Meriva Carpenter as a young lady which was obtained for this collection several years after the version of her as an older lady.

Self portraits by miniature painters are rare, and to be able to reunite these two self portraits by Meriva Carpenter was very special. 1358

After the even, I noted another Meriva portrait was auctioned on 28 January 2017 for $750.

Auction - Alex Cooper

January 28, 2017 10:00 AM EST
Towson, MD, US

It was described;
"Description: (American, 1802-1887). Portrait of Dr. Ruggles Carpenter, watercolor on ivory, identified by paper in his hand, 3 x 2 1/2 in. sight size, framed
Condition Report: Two repaired cracks; later assembled frame."
On the reverse is an extensive note about the family.
Lot 2277: Meriva Carpenter. Portrait miniature, watercolor
Lot 2277: Meriva Carpenter. Portrait miniature, watercolor
Later - 2021.

There is a newspaper report about Meriva at


Anonymous said...

We are also collectors of Carpenter's...if you are interested in sharing information so that we may each learn more, or if you are interested in selling any of you acquisitions please let me know.

Don Shelton said...

Hi, I am very happy to exchange information about Meriva, what else would you like to know? Although, I regret I cannot add a lot to what I have already published. Did you by any chance purchase the nice portraits of her parents? Regards, Collector

Don Shelton said...

Thank you very much for the note. You have done well to acquire five portraits by Meriva. I presume you are related to her?

I did not know about the town named after them, but am very happy to add some comments about it into the website. The full family history would probably be too much information for me, but if there are any other interesting internet links about the family, I would be very happy to add them in as well.

By way of history, I bought the self portrait of Meriva about three years ago on Ebay. As mentioned on the website, I left what I hoped was a high bid for her parents portraits, but it was not enough :-((

One thing you may be able to help me with, is that from the same seller I also bought a dag which is still here. Without hunting for it just now, I think it was said to be of a girl called Beth from Homer, who was believed to be a daughter of Meriva, but I could not find any record of Meriva having had a daughter. Does the name Beth mean anything to you? Regards, Collector

Don Shelton said...

I have just dug out my rough notes and the dag. Sorry, my memory was wrong. The girl in the dag is about 12 or 14 and the dag has a pencil note inside that is hard to read, but appeas to read "Belle Thomas (or Harmer? or Homer?) 1864 Newark NJ". I see from an internet reference "History of Homer, New York" that a Francis B Carpenter was an early citizen of Carpenterville. Do you know what relation he was to Meriva? I only researched her immediate family and his name does not seem to appear in my notes. Regards

Don Shelton said...

Thank you for all the extra information. It seems that Belle is not a close relation. I have included a reference to all your help in the main description.
I hope you find more portraits by her. Regards.

Don Shelton said...

In the 1850 census for Homer, Eli recorded his occupation as Dyer and as owning real estate assets of $3000. Eli and Meriva had three children living with them, but they are only identified by initials.

Unknown said...

We have several miniatures by Meriva Carpenter at Cortland County Historical Society. Unfortunately I'm working from home during this pandemic and don't have my hands on our files and photos. There was a treasure trove of Carpenter items donated to us in the 1990s, including a well preserved Bloomer costume. I've been told that it is only one of two in the United States that has been preserved from that period of time (circa 1850s). If you would like to follow up on this subject when we have reopened, please contact me. Our website is and my email address is there as well as our phone number.