Goodridge, Eliza - portrait of Sophia Rebecca Burnside

Occasionally, an unidentified sitter can be named if they are famous, or perhaps tracked down via a special item, such as military medals. But normally, it is impossible to determine the identity of an average sitter, where there is no identification with the miniature itself.

However, this miniature portrait may be the exception that proves the rule.

The black and white image here is from the collection of the American Antiquarian Society. It has their catalogue number, 16, and is a portrait of Sophia Dwight Foster Burnside (1787-1882).

In the collection the portrait is described as a miniature on ivory painted around 1830 by Eliza Goodridge (1798-1882).

The two poses shown here, are so similar that they would seem to be by the same artist. The physical size of the one in color is a little less at 80mm x 60mm, compared to 95mm x 73mm for the other. It is not so obvious from these scanned images, but when the two originals are compared, the sizes of the painted heads are exactly the same.

Further, the likeness and dress of the two sitters is so similar, one might at first think they are both the same person, painted at two different ages.

However, it is unlikely the same person would wear such similar costume at such different ages. That leads one to try and determine whether the two miniatures are of a mother and a daughter.

Similarities appear to include; the pose, the hairline, the bonnet, the mouth, the nose, the face shape (excluding the double chin), the way the black dress is painted, the way the lace is painted where it extends over the black of the dress, and the way the eyes are painted.

Available family trees on www.rootsweb.com do show Sophia Dwight Foster who married Samuel M'Gregore Burnside (1783-1850) in 1816, but the family trees there do not show they had any children.

A search of the 1850 census, however, shows Samuel and Sophia living in Worcestor, MA with two daughters; Harriet P F Burnside aged 23 and Elizabeth D Burnside aged 21. Samuel is a lawyer with assets of $52,000 and the family lives next door to Sophia's brother, Alfred Dwight Foster and his family. Alfred is a farmer with assets of $78,500.

Harriet and Elizabeth's full names can be determined from www.familysearch.org as Harriet Pamela Foseter Burnside (25 Aug 1825-?) and Elizabeth Dwight Burnside (22 Jan 1829-1899).

That website also records an elder daughter, Sophia Rebecca Burnside (3 May 1823-17 Jun 1836) who had died when she was aged only 13 years. The sitter in this miniature portrait looks to be quite young and could well be aged 13.

Putting all the parts together, my belief is that the miniature represents the elder sister, Sophia Rebecca Burnside and was painted in 1836, either just before her death, or just afterwards as a post mortem miniature. The miniature of her mother being painted at the same time, possibly with her pose assisting the artist to paint a post mortem miniature of her daughter in a more lifelike manner.

If this is correct, it would mean the miniature of Sophia Dwight Foster Burnside was painted a little later than the date of 1830 assumed by the American Antiquarian Society. If painted in 1836, it would mean the sitter was aged 49, instead of 43. The slightly greater age does seem to be a reasonable age for her in the AAS portrait.

It is possible the miniature here is of Harriet or Elizabeth, but that would necessitate their mother being older in her portrait.

One possible complication is that the miniature cam from Asheville NC, rather than MA, but it is possible the miniature moved south over the intervening 170 years.

AAS attributes their miniature to Eliza Goodridge and so I have made the same attribution, although I do a little uncertainty about the attribution. 677

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