One of the important early American portratists was Oliver Tarbell Eddy (1799-1868). A lot of his work was done in New Jersey, especially Newark during the 1830s. Thus they are an important source of information about clothing and families in the period just before the invention of photography. Eddy was a portraitist and he did both individual and family group portraits. Eddy is especially known for the 13 (perhaps more) portraits that he painted of the prosperous William Rankin family. Rankin was a hat manufacturer. An even more well known artist, Rembrant Peaple, painted a portrait of the father. A good example of the Eddy portraits is one done of the younger Rankin children about 1838 (figure 1). Eddy work in New Jersey at a time before the invention of photography.
This portrait was commissioned to commemorate the death of Matilda, the younger daughter who died in 1838. This probably explains the storm clouds painted in the window.
Also included is a geranium, a flower symbolising mourning.
Her older sister holds a handkerchief, perhaps meant to wipe away tears.
The boys both wear black suits. Black was very popular in the early Victoriam period. The younger boy wears a suit jacket that looks rather like a tunic. Notice the very broad collar that extends out to the shoulders rather than pointging down. These collars are very different than the often very small collars popular at mid-century. The boys both have short hair, although the oldest boy has hair down to his ears.
The girls both war desses with low necklknes. Notice the half sleeves with a puff at the elbows. The dress colors are muted. Notice the older girl has shoes matching her dress. We don't know what kind of hats/caps the boys wore. The younger boys holds a black cap, but we can't make out much detail.
Notice the fancy bonnet that one of the girls wore on the table. This was presumbably included because their father made hats. Both girls have center parts.
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