A fantastic Clarissa Peters (Mrs. Mose B. Russell) mourning painting of a baby and toddler. Peters chose a simple palette of white and bluish-gray to emphasize the ethereal and ephemeral nature of the painting, reserving the use of colors to the hair, lips, and eyes of the subjects. Known for painting children, Peters' mourning paintings are scarce, and double mourning portraits are exponentially rarer yet.
Adding to the importance of this piece is the velvet lined gutta percha case, which has a depiction on the front of a toddler and baby, carefully selected to complement the painting inside. A rare and moving combination indeed.
The condition of the painting is excellent, with no issues or restoration. The case is also in wonderful shape, with only a couple of spots on the painting's metal surround. Sight size of the work is 2 1/4" by 1 3/4", with a closed case size of 3 3/4" by 3 3/8".
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE: Clarissa Peters (1809 - 1854) was born in North Andover, MA, one of 12 children. Details of her early education are not known, but it is possible that she studied at the Franklin Academy, the first incorporated school in Massachusetts to admit women. Early in her professional life she is believed to have taught at the Blue Hill Academy in Blue Hill, Maine. It is thought that she may have received some instruction in watercolor painting from Jonathan Fisher, a local polymath and graduate of Harvard University. By 1835 she was in Boston, painting miniatures and giving instruction in the art as well. In 1839 Clarissa married the painter Moses B. Russell, with whom she had sought instruction in painting.
The Russells were active in Boston from around 1842 to 1854, living on School Street and exhibiting work at the Boston Athenaeum. Clarissa also showed work at the Boston Artists Association in 1842 and 1843, and at the Art and Mechanics Associations. She and her husband worked closely together, and their styles are similar enough that it is difficult to tell their work apart. Furthermore, her paintings, which are often either unsigned or bear her husband's name, have sometimes been mistaken for those of Joseph Whiting Stock.
Russell remained actively sought after as a portraitist until her death, which occurred as a result of violent seasickness. Such was her stature that the Boston Atlas memorialized her with a front-page obituary, and notices were published in other papers as well.
Her works are in many museum collections, including those of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cincinnati Art Museum, and the North Andover Historical Society. Her work is highly sought after by collectors of folk art and miniatures.