AMMI PHILLIPS (1788-1865)*

AMMI PHILLIPS (1788-1865)*


oil on canvas, Alsop Vail signed and dated on obverse l.r. Alsop Vail Aged 65 Years 1826 A. Phillips Pincit, Frances Vail signed and dated on l.l.,Frances Vail Aged 69 Years 1826 A. Philips Pincit, 31½ x 25½in. (2)
Antique Associates at West Townsend, West Townsend, Massachusetts

Lot Essay

Who is active at the turn of the century as a portrait painter in the border area shared by Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York. Ammi Phillips achieved greater recognition than most folk artists at this time. Throughout a period of sixty years, his distinct styles have characterized some five hundred works of portraiture.

Of at least nineteen signed and dated portraits by Ammi Phillips, only one other pair is signed, dated and identified on the front of the canvas, as is the double-portrait of Alsop and Frances Vail, illustrated here. Like the Vails, the double-portrait of Mr. and Mrs. Peleg Pelton is inscribed in an identical manner and was also executed in 1826 while Phillips lived in Amenia, Dutchess County, New York (see Holdridge, Ammi Phillips: Portrait Painter, 1788-1865, (New York, 1969) p.33).

Although little is known of Alsop and Frances Vail, Phillips may have known a possible relative of theirs, Captain Lebbeus Vail. Immediately prior to his residency in Amenia, Phillips lived in Goshen, New York, in neighbouring Orange County. During this time, Phillips is believed to have executed the only known ornamental sign painting of his career, a tavern sign for the Goshen Tavern (Holdridge, pp. 14 - 15). Owned by Captain Lebbeus Vail from 1824 to 1834, when Vail was appointed County Clerk, the tavern owner may be the link between artist and sitters. A surviving 1824 receipt from Ammi Phillips to Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Thompson, also of Orange County, New York, for $20 for a pair of portraits provides additional evidence of the significant local regard in which the artist was held.