This rare full-length double portrait of Theron Simpson Ludington and his sister Virginia with a cat and shaggy dog has descended directly through the Ludington family of Goshen, Connecticut. While hundreds of single portraits may be attributable to Phillips, fewer than ten full-length double portraits are known to exist. Freed from the conventional poses and motifs employed in single portraits, Phillips portrays Theron pulling away from his sister's touch and hugging his dog. In this gentle pose, Phillips captures a moment in time with an intimacy and playfulness rarely seen in his other work.
Phillips was commissioned to paint the portrait of Theron Simpson and Virginia Ludington along with the following lot depicting their parents, Theron Daniel Ludington and Eleanor Bailey Ludington (lot 125), adding to the small body of Phillips' work produced in and around Goshen, Connecticut from 1850 to about 1852. As was his practice, Phillips moved into a community as a portrait artist for hire, collecting commissions to paint the residents of the town and surrounding area. Phillips' work during the Goshen years is recorded in Barbara C. and Lawrence Holdridge's Ammi Phillips Portrait Painter, 1788-1865. The inventory lists four portraits executed by Phillips around 1850 in Goshen: Hosea Crandall and Harriet Griswold Crandall (no. 261 and 262) and Joseph Palmer and Emily Minter Fox (no. 263 and 264). In a 1912 family history, Ellen E. Potter mentions "Mr. Phillips of Goshen coming to paint the family portraits," referring to the double portrait of Maria Rachel Bronson and son Wilbur M. Bronson in Winchester, Connecticut, ten miles northeast of Goshen, along with the double portrait of brothers Edward H. and Henry T. Bronson (Sold Sotheby's, New York, Important Americana, January 28, 1998, lot 1495 and 1496). Of these three double portraits executed during the Goshen years, the Ludington family portrait is the only known example in full-length.
In the Ludington double portrait, Ammi Phillips not only depicts his sitters in "perfect shadow" and the "prevailing fashion of the day." Here Phillips goes beyond, offering a skillful rendering of the sitters' likenesses and a lighthearted glimpse into the relationship between a brother and his older sister.