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A patriotic overmantle painting

A patriotic overmantle painting
tempera on plaster
38¼ x 50¾ inches

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Lot Essay

Removed from the front parlor of Nine Smith Street in Rockport, Massachusetts, this painted overmantel picture is an exquisite example of patriotic decorative wall painting in New England. Originally executed in lime wash and tempera on an unprepared wall of lime, sand and horsehair mortar, the present lot was expertly removed from its original site and substructure support. Combining a patriotic element with symbols of peace, the painting depicts two 13-star flags poised above a pair of courting doves flanking a floral stem. A stream of sunlight arches between the flags and doves, which are perched above a brick fireplace painted with perspective and hung with drapery swags.

According to Nina Fletcher Little, only three examples of patriotic overmantels have been found in New England, each depicting an eagle and shield motif (Nina Fletcher Little American Decorative Wall Painting 1700-1850 (New York, 1989) pp. 50-51, figs. 47 and 48 and p. 111, fig. 128). This vividly colored painting is possibly a unique example of the joint themes of patriotism and peace. Drawing inspiration from other itinerant painters in New England, this artist created a wall design that is effective in drawing the viewer's eye towards the doves at the center of the painting, then outwards in the direction of the flags. The proportions of the painting are balanced by the diverse symbols, figures and architecture, and the vivid colors are appropriate for the bold statement created by the design.

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