It’s auction season again, the best one of all: the major Americana sales and the Winter Antiques Show in New York. I won’t be at any of the exhibitions or sales, which is just as well for me; my friends know the twitchy “must-touch” finger motion that means I need to leave my wallet and checkbook in wiser, saner hands.
Still, even if we can’t buy, we can learn. This time around, I was delighted by the juxtaposition of two pre-1750 paintings in the Sotheby’s sales.
First, the ever-delightful Robert Feke’s portrait of Mrs Tench Francis.
Francis. Shippen. Willing. This thing is DEEP in the history of Philadelphia, and by my fave 18th century RI painter.
It was a THING, that blue silk gown business with a red silk wrapper. Better yet? This one:
What I love about the J. Cooper is how crude it is: that painting looks more like a woolwork picture than a painting. But that vernacular adaptation tells us how prevalent this portrait style was, and how desirable.