1845 Jane A. Davis Watercolor Family Portrait

Value (2003) | $25,000 Auction$35,000 Auction

It was in my grandmother's hope chest, and when she passed away, I found it. And it's my great-great-great- grandmother and grandfather. They lived in Willimantic, Connecticut. And, um, I'd kind of like to know who the artist is and if he did other paintings in the area. They were not very wealthy people. I wondered if this was expensive to do this at the time.

Well, this is a fascinating watercolor, and one of the really intriguing things about this-- you said, "I'd like to know more about him..." as the artist-- is that it's not a him.

Oh, it's not...

It's not, it's a "she."


And the artist's name is Jane Anthony Davis.

Oh, my.

And she was born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1821. And she died of consumption in 1855. And she was an itinerant artist and she traveled around the areas close to her birthplace in Rhode Island, in Willimantic and other towns in Connecticut, painting portraits of the common folk who lived there. So you're absolutely right. These were not expensive things to be done, but they were important things to be done because they were the primary way that people had images of their families. This is before photography. What's really nice about this particular Davis is that you've got the mother and her baby girl and her husband. And there's the mother-in-law, right there, Elisabeth Fisk. And what's really nice about this one is not only that it's three generations, but if I can just turn this around... to show the backing of it. It's fully inscribed. Beautiful calligraphy which shows the names of the subjects. There's the name of the town in which they were painted, the date, August the ninth, 1845. And here's the artist's signature, "J.A. Davis," and a photograph of them in Nebraska later on. So this is an incredible family document and a wonderful example of a rare woman artist.

Oh, well, I never thought about a woman at all.

I know, most people don't. So, I guess the only piece of the puzzle that's missing right now is the value. This unusual triple portrait and the single portrait would be $25,000 to $35,000.

Oh... that's very nice. My husband will be very surprised.

Appraisal Details

New York, NY
Appraised value (2003)
$25,000 Auction$35,000 Auction
San Francisco, CA (August 16, 2003)

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