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Elizabeth Freeman ("Mumbet")

Elizabeth Freeman (`Mumbet`) Miniature portrait, watercolor on ivory
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[ This description is from the project: Witness to America's Past ]

The artist of this miniature was Susan Anne Livingston Ridley Sedgwick, a granddaughter of Governor William Ridley of New Jersey and the wife of Theodore Sedgwick, Jr. Her husband, son of Judge Sedgwick, was well known in his own right as a lawyer, member of the Massachusetts state legislature in 1824, 1825, and 1827, and as the author of Public and Private Economy, published in 1836-1839. Due to ill health, Theodore was forced to retire from his law practice in Albany in 1821 and then moved to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, with the rest of the family. It was at that time that Susan began to write her didactic works for children. Although not a professional, her painting and writing made her a "welcome addition to the cultivated society which centered about the Sedgwicks."1 Among her works were The Morals of Pleasure (1829), Children's Week (1829), and The Young Emigrants: A Tale Designed for Young People (1830).

The miniature of Mumbet is presented in a half-length format, with the sitter close to the picture plane and turned slightly. The face and body were probably added over the stippled gray background. Mumbet's face is realistic, although her body perspective is slightly skewed. She is wearing a blue dress typical of the Federalist period, with drawstrings at the neck and waist, a white fichu tucked into her dress, a white cap, and gold beads. With the exception of the accomplished stippled background, the style is that of an amateur. The watercolors used are darker and more opaque than those generally used by contemporary professional miniaturists, and Sedgwick may have followed more closely the style of earlier artists.

1. Dictionary of the American Biography. Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds. 20 vols. New York, 1928-1936.


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