About this artwork
Ammi Phillips was a self-taught, itinerant portrait painter and plied his trade in western Connecticut, western Massachusetts, and New York. He first appeared as a professional portrait painter in a July 29, 1809, advertisement placed in the Berkshire Reporter (Pittsfield, Massachusetts), in which he promised to paint likenesses and profiles over the following weeks in his room at Clarke’s Tavern.
A doctor in Pine Plains, New York, Cornelius Allerton was forty-two years old when Phillips painted him (1946.394). In an accompanying portrait of his widowed mother, the severe, wrinkled Mrs. Allerton wears a stiff bonnet, denoting her age. Both are shown with identifying symbols associated with their work, with Mrs. Allerton holding the Gospel Herald, an evangelical newspaper published in New York City between 1820 and 1827. In contrast, Cornelius holds a volume of Parr’s Medical Dictionary on his lap, and his saddled horse appears in the distant background, ready to go at a moment’s notice. As a pair—a man of science, out in the world; and a plain woman of religion—they represent the separate spheres of men and women in the nineteenth century.
- Ammi Phillips
- Mrs. Reuben Allerton (Lois Atherton)
- New York
- c. 1821–1822
- Oil on canvas
- 83.8 × 69.9 cm (33 × 27 1/2 in.)
- Gift of Robert Allerton