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Ammi Phillips (1788-1865) Lived/Active in Connecticut and New York


A Pair of Portraits, Samuel Callender and Sarah Jane Howell
Probably New York, ca. 1835
Oil on canvas, in period gilt frames
30” x 24”, 37” x 31” with frame
Condition: Great condition, both remain unlined on original stretchers, minor in-painting.

Provenance: Descended in the family of the sitters; A private collection, New York State; sold Doyle, New York, November 9, 1983; Skinner, Boston November 1, 1986, lot 225. David R. Hillier, West Townsend, Massachusetts. Sotheby’s, New York, October 20, 1990, lot 101.

Literature: The Magazine Antiques (October 1983), p. 723. Howard P. Fertig, checklist, in Stacy C. Hollander and Howard P. Fertig, Revisiting Ammi Phillips: Fifty Years of American Portraiture (New York, 1994), 67B.14 (the woman) and 68A.1 (the man). David R. Allaway, My People: The Works of Ammi Phillips, vol. 1, p. 109, nos. 272, 273, vol. 2, p. 48.

Ammi Phillips was born in Colebrook, Connecticut and began painting portraits of western Massachusetts subjects in about 1811.  In 1813 he married Laura Brockway of Schodack, New York, and briefly lived in Troy before settling in Rhinebeck, in Dutchess County. After his first wife’s death, Phillips remarried, lived for a time in Amenia, New York, and then settled in 1836 in Kent and Sharon, Connecticut.  Phillips returned to Amenia in about 1838, lived in Northeast, New York for a decade, and died in Curtisville, New York in 1865.  His more than six hundred extant likenesses span an artistic career of nearly sixty years.

These portraits depict Samuel Callender Howell (1807-1896) and his wife, Sally Jane Beakes (1812-1903). From Orange County, New York, the couple married in 1834 and it is likely that these portraits were painted soon after. In the Federal and New York State census records of 1850, 1860 and 1865, the couple are listed as living in Mount Holly, Orange County and, in 1870 and 1880, Wallkill, located twenty-five miles northeast. Howell was a prosperous farmer and as this portrait shows, a well-read gentleman. As noted by David R. Allaway, the book in his portrait is David Ramsay’s History of the United States, published in 1816-1817. The couple had seven children and these portraits descended in the family before entering a private collection and first selling at auction in 1983.

It is rare to find pairs of portraits by Phillips, especially ones like these that have survived in such a remarkable state of preservation.

Item ID: WoA-AMP-OC 621 a & b

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