A truly beautiful portrait miniature of a young child holding a canary. The portrait contains all the bells and whistles we love and expect from works by Clarissa Peters (Mrs. Moses B. Russell). The large, soulful eyes with the iris and eyelids distinctively outlined so that the eyes are the most prominent part of the portrait and draw you in. The mouth small, almost pinched, and set off with small marks at the corners, and a slight shadow below the bottom lip. Clarissa Peters' work always expresses an innocence and, although naïve, is very detailed.According to papers kept with this miniature, the child is William Henry Baldrey. William was born to Captain Samuel Baldrey and wife, Mary Collins Baldrey. William was born May 6, 1850 and tragically died at ten months old on March 23, 1851. So many children and mothers were lost in those pre-modern-medicine days that memorial paintings were often sought after the death. We don’t know whether Clarissa Peters was commissioned for this piece during William’s short live or after his passing. However, symbolism has been suggested that the canary in hand shows his departed soul. The wind swept look of his skirt and the ethereal depiction of the clouds gives the impression of weightlessness and movement as his soul ascends to the Heavens.
This small portrait in a leather traveling case would have allowed his mother or father to always carry William close to their hearts and eyes. This portrait is in excellent condition and in its original red leather case with green fabric lining. The case shows minor wear as expected. Sight size is 2” x 2 ¾”, size of the closed case is 3 ¼” x 4”. The portrait is not signed. Circa 1851.
Provenance: Marguerite Riordan, Stonington, Connecticut; Collection of Barbara and Arun Singh.
Literature: Randall Holton and Charles Gilday, "Mrs. Moses B. Russell, Boston Miniaturist," The Magazine Antiques” (December 1999), p. 821, plate XV.
Please see the Folk Portrait Artists page for more information about Clarissa Peters