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Dummy Board Portrait of a Woman

1976.173 (RS32659)

Description

Full-length dummy board portrait of a woman, wearing a blue skirt, brown bodice, white apron, fichu and bonnet, carrying tray. Oil on American larch.

Details

Label
"Cherished Possessions": Trompe l'oeil figures like this one (trompe l'oeil means to deceive the eye) were popular whimsies among the well-to-do in Holland and England in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This is one of a few surviving American "dummy boards," so called because the figures remain mute. This dummy board of a servant carrying a tray of steaming cups of chocolate belonged to Boston, Massachusetts, widow Elizabeth Wendell Smith, who likely brought it with her when she moved to Maine in 1766 after her second marriage. Family tradition holds that the board depicts Elizabeth Smith's maid, Phyllis, a common name for servants, especially slaves.
January 2010-Winter Antiques Show: Trompe l'oeil figures like this one, known as "dummy boards," were popular whimsies among the well-to-do in Holland and England in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. This rare American example of a servant carrying a tray of steaming cups of chocolate belonged to Elizabeth Wendell Smith of Boston. Family tradition holds that the board depicts Smith's maid Phyllis.
Maker
unknown
Date
1740-1750
Material
larch (wood)
oil paint (paint)
Object type
Art
Descriptive terms
dummy board figures
larch (wood)
oil paint (paint)
Painting
Dimensions
62 1/4 x 27 1/2 x 2 (HxWxD) (inches)
Accession Number
1976.173
Credit Line
Bequest of Elizabeth Beasom Stephan
GUSN
26838

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