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    Description

    AMMI PHILLIPS (American, 1788-1865)
    Three Children of Henry Joslen Carter of Stockbridge: Anna Electa (1845-); John Calvin Calhoun (1846-); Mary Adele (1856-), 1860
    Oil on canvas
    28-3/4 x 37-1/2 inches (73.0 x 95.3 cm)

    PROVENANCE:
    Henry Joslen Carter, Stockbridge, Massachusetts;
    John Calvin Calhoun Carter, Stockbridge, Massachusetts;
    Grace Carter Richardson, Stockbridge, Massachusetts;
    By descent to the present owner.

    LITERATURE:
    S. Hollander and H. Fertig, Revisiting Ammi Phillips: Fifty Years of American Portraiture, New York, The Museum of American Folk Art, 1994, p. 63.
    B. Holdredge and L. Holdredge, Ammi Phillips: Portrait Painter 1788-1865, New York, The Museum of American Folk Art, 1969, pp. 17, 44, 52, and 54.

    Among the most important American folk artists of the nineteenth century, Ammi Phillips was a self-taught portraitist from Colebrook, Connecticut. Phillips began his career as early as 1810 and for five decades worked successfully as an itinerant painter along New York-Massachusetts-Connecticut border, thus gaining the title of the "Border Limner."

    The present work is one of few known triple portraits by Phillips, and depicts the three young children of Henry Joslen Carter of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, at approximate ages of ten, sixteen, and eighteen. The artist took up temporary residence at the Carter household in 1860, according to the family's history, in an effort to recover from illness. The Carters were among the founding families of Stockbridge, and their homestead was a large and stately brick house built on an expansive farm purchased by Henry's father, Thomas, in 1805. Phillips painted four portraits of six of the family members while in residence there, using an upstairs back bedroom of the house as a studio. The artist was paid substantially for these commissions: twenty-five dollars for the present work, and ten dollars each for three single portraits.¹ The individual portraits depicted Henry Carter's father, Thomas, a cousin Florence Maria, and a postmortem portrait of an adult male cousin, Edward Church Carter.

    It is well recognized that among Ammi Phillips' most successful and appealing works are his portraits of children. In this exceptional and striking example, the way in which the siblings are entwined with one another is unique, and quite poignant. John Calvin Calhoun, great-grandfather of the present owner, is pictured on the far right, his right hand resting on the shoulder of little Mary Adele, with whom he holds a sprig of strawberries. On the far left holding a small yellow bird is Anna Electa, who according to family history suffered from a severe cleft palate. Phillips thoughtfully downplayed this facial deformity in her portrait.

    During the final years of his life, Phillips began to portray familial relationships in a more tender and sentimental manner, as epitomized in this portrait. The palette of this work is characteristic of the artist's portraits from the period, in particular, the blue and salmon hues of the girls' dresses. The chiseled, dimensional forms of the figures also reflect a departure from his earlier flattened and more stylized forms, perhaps suggesting the influence of photography on the painter's work.

    An important and exceedingly charming example of early American portraiture, Three Children of Henry Joslen Carter of Stockbridge has descended through three generations of the Carter family to the present owner.

    ¹ From B. and L. Holdredge, Ammi Phillips: Portrait Painter 1788-1865, New York, The Museum of American Folk Art, 1969.





    Condition Report*: The following condition report was prepared by Simon Parkes Art Conservation, Inc.: This painting is in unusually fresh and good condition. The paint layer is clean enough, although it is slightly dirty. The canvas has never been removed from the original stretcher and although the cracking is noticeably raised throughout, it is showing only a small amount of instability, particularly in the faces of the figures, in the left forearm of the girl in pink and possibly in a couple of other areas. Stucturally the paint layer is comparatively well preserved, given the period and the fact that the canvas is not lined. The canvas does not need to be lined unless the raised cracking is an issue. There is some retouching in the waist of the pink dress in the center. There is also possibly some retouching on the extreme right edge of the sister's face on the far left. there may be a few retouches under the nose, under the mouth and under the right eye of the boy on the right. However, we cannot positively identify any further retouches, although there may be a few. This painting is clearly in beautiful condition. Of immediate visual concern are the splash marks in the lower left corner which were probably left by a spray cleaning agent or possibly a soda bottle. These splash marks can be removed without affecting the remainder of the picture. Removing these splash marks may cause a slightly different sheen to some areas but it should not be too much of an issue. These marks are also present on the frame, which is damaged slightly more and which cannot be returned to its original condition unless it is properly addressed by a frame restorer. The painting could be hung as is but if the splash marks need to be addressed, the cost of this work will be under $1,000, depending on how easy they are to remove.   Framed to an overall size of 32.75 x 41.5 in.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2010
    10th Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 0
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 3,065

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    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

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