Friday, August 30, 2019

Portrait of 18C American Woman

1763 John Singleton Copley 1738-1815 Elizabeth Byles Mrs. Gawen Brown  MFA Houston

Mrs. Gawen Brown (Elizabeth Byles, 1737-1763) was the daughter of the minister Mather Byles and Anna Noyes and the wife of Gawen Brown (1719-1801), an esteemed Boston clockmaker. Something of a poet, she penned the following lines "on her Infant Son,” Mather Brown (1761-1831), who eventually would become a portraitist: “When with a Parents partial Eye / My Babe within my Arms I spy, / I form a thousand airy Schemes / And paint his future Life in Dreams. / But ah! how different may it be / From what a mother hopes to see / The lovely Infant ne’er may know / A joyous Moment here below: / Yet oh that Heaven would hear my Prayer, / And pour its Blessings on my Heir. / Grant him those Graces from above, / Of Faith, Humility and Love / Let him thy Loving Favor find, / As years increase enlarge his Mind. . . .” The sitter, however, did not live long after voicing her dreams, wishes, and prayers for her son; she died the same year Copley produced this portrait.  See: Warren, David B., Michael K. Brown, Elizabeth Ann Coleman, and Emily Ballew Neff. American Decorative Arts and Paintings in the Bayou Bend Collection. Houston: Princeton Univ. Press, 1998.