Ruth Henshaw Miles Bascom (1772-1848) was a prolific portrait artist in Federal-era Massachusetts. Born in Leicester, Massachusetts, Ruth was the oldest daughter born to American patriot and Minutemen organizer William Henshaw (1735-1820) and his wife, Phebe Swan Henshaw (1753-1808). She was raised in Worcester, Massachusetts where she married Dartmouth College professor Asa Miles in 1804, who died shortly thereafter in 1806. Following the untimely death of her first husband, Ruth married Reverend Ezekiel Bascom, a prominent clergyman in Massachusetts who, along with his wife, traveled extensively through England and the United States. The artist's career is documented not only by her portraiture but also by her personal journals, which she meticulously maintained from 1789 to 1846. These exceptional records, housed today at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, provide extensive insight into the subjects of more than two hundred portraits completed by the artist. Bascom's portraits are executed in profile, either life-size or slightly smaller, with the projected shadow traced in graphite and ears and minimal modeling added, then colored in pastels. The backgrounds are plain, often in shades of green and blue. The present lot is further distinguished by her ruddy checks and folded foil details on her necklace.
At the time of its sale at Sotheby Parke Bernet in 1978, the present lot retained a label on the reverse inscribed Cornelia T. Newell Miller, Wardsboro, Vermont, taken 1835 Age 20. Cornelia T. Newell (1817-1851) was born in Wardsboro, Vermont and married Jesse Miller (1806-1897) in about 1838. They had five children before Cornelia's death in 1851, after which Jesse married Lucia L. Graves (d. 1885).