Anonymous

American decorative arts curator Amelia Peck relates to anonymous everyday women depicted throughout history.

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I always smile because she's everything that I probably think is wrong about myself and there she is being worshipped.

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  • Amelia Peck
    1280852
  • "The Indian Princess"  |  ca. 1740–60  |  Unknown artist (American)  |  Boston, Massachusetts  |  Linen embroidered with wool and silk thread  |  Inscribed: L S/B  |  Gift of Mrs. Screven Lorillard, 1953 (53.179.13)
    12461024
  • Sampler  |  1739  |  Ann Sayres (American)  |  Linen embroidered with silk thread  |  Purchase, Joel B. Leff Charitable Trust, M. B. and Fannie Finkelstein, and Charles C. Townsend Jr. Gifts, and Gift of Joan G. Hancock, in memory of Frances Burrall Henry, by exchange, 2004 (2004.140)
    5641024
  • Portrait of a Lady  |  1764  |  Lawrence Kilburn (or Kilbrunn) (American)  |  Oil on canvas  |  Maria DeWitt Jesup Fund, 2002 (2002.259)
    8511024
  • A Family Group  |  ca. 1850  |  Anonymous (American)  |  Oil on canvas  |  Purchase, William Cullen Bryant Fellows Gifts, 2008 (2008.5)
    1280988
  • Childbirth scene  |  ca. 310–30 b.c.; Hellenistic  |  Cypriot; Said to be from the temple at Golgoi  |  Limestone  |  The Cesnola Collection, Purchased by subscription, 1874–76 (74.51.2698)
    1280819
  • Steatopygous female figure  |  ca. 4500–4000 b.c.; Final Neolithic  |  Cycladic  |  Marble  |  Bequest of Walter C. Baker, 1971 (1972.118.104)
    8041024
  • Young Woman Drawing  |  1801  |  Marie-Denise Villers (French)  |  Oil on canvas  |  Mr. and Mrs. Isaac D. Fletcher Collection, Bequest of Isaac D. Fletcher, 1917 (17.120.204)
    8191024
  • Portrait bust of a woman  |  200–230 a.d.; Severan  |  Roman  |  Marble  |  Rogers Fund, 1918(18.145.39)
    7351024
  • Statuette of a veiled and masked dancer  |  3rd–2nd century b.c.; Hellenistic  |  Greek  |  Bronze  |  Bequest of Walter C. Baker, 1971 (1972.118.95)
    6611024
  • Seated woman playing a kithara: From Room H of the Villa of P. Fannius Synistor at Boscoreale  |  ca. 40–30 b.c.; Late Republican  |  Roman  |  Wall painting; Fresco  |  Rogers Fund, 1903 (03.14.5)
    10411024
  • Easy chair  |  1758  |  Caleb Gardner (American)  |  American; Newport, Rhode Island  |  Walnut, maple  |  Gift of Mrs. J. Insley Blair, 1950 (50.228.3)
    8431024
  • Easy chair  |  1758  |  Caleb Gardner (American)  |  American; Newport, Rhode Island  |  Walnut, maple  |  Gift of Mrs. J. Insley Blair, 1950 (50.228.3)
    8531024
  • Easy chair  |  1758  |  Caleb Gardner (American)  |  American; Newport, Rhode Island  |  Walnut, maple  |  Gift of Mrs. J. Insley Blair, 1950 (50.228.3)
    8051024
  • Woman Seen from the Back  |  ca. 1862  |  Onèsipe Aguado (French)  |  Salted paper print from glass negative  |  Gilman Collection, Purchase, Joyce F. Menschel Gift, 2005 (2005.100.1)
    8631024
  • Autograph quilt  |  ca. 1856–63  |  Adeline Harris Sears (American)  |  Rhode Island  |  Silk with inked signatures  |  Purchase, William Cullen Bryant Fellows Gifts, 1996 (1996.4)
    9931024
  • Autograph quilt  |  ca. 1856–63  |  Adeline Harris Sears (American)  |  Rhode Island  |  Silk with inked signatures  |  Purchase, William Cullen Bryant Fellows Gifts, 1996 (1996.4)
    9981024
  • Autograph quilt  |  ca. 1856–63  |  Adeline Harris Sears (American)  |  Rhode Island  |  Silk with inked signatures  |  Purchase, William Cullen Bryant Fellows Gifts, 1996 (1996.4)
    8151024
  • Autograph quilt  |  ca. 1856–63  |  Adeline Harris Sears (American)  |  Rhode Island  |  Silk with inked signatures  |  Purchase, William Cullen Bryant Fellows Gifts, 1996 (1996.4)
    8141024
  • Washington Crossing the Delaware  |  1851  |  Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (German, active United States)  |  Oil on canvas  |  Gift of John Stewart Kennedy, 1897 (97.34)
    1280735
  • Portrait of Catherine Lorillard  |  ca. 1810  |  Anonymous (American)  |  Silk ground cloth, painted with oil and embroidered with silk  |  Purchase, Friends of the American Wing Fund, The Masinter Family Foundation Gift, and funds from various donors, 1999 (1999.144)
    8491024
  • A Family Group  |  ca. 1850  |  Anonymous (American)  |  Oil on canvas  |  Purchase, William Cullen Bryant Fellows Gifts, 2008 (2008.5)
    922838
  • Amelia Peck
    1280852
  • My name is Amelia Peck. I'm a decorative arts curator in the American Wing, and my topic today is anonymous.

  • The majority of things I work with not only are they anonymous, but they are by women. Women are lost from the historical record most of the time.

  • What is left sometimes are just little scraps of fabric, a sampler, a quilt.Also

  • many portraits of women may be the only thing speaking for them.

  • It seemed very much that it was images of women I was attracted to, and it was images of everyday women, women like me.

  • This little votive, it's actually an image of a woman in childbirth and a very realistic image. There's something almost shocking that in 300 B.C. they were comfortable enough that they would actually make sculptures of something like this.

  • This is a Cycladic fertility figure. I look at it as a friend. I look at it and I always smile, because she's everything that I probably think is wrong about myself. And there she is being worshipped, and so she always makes me feel good, I go and I see her and I go, "all right, things aren't looking so bad."

  • I really enjoy powerful images of women, images in which they're active, in which they're taking their space and their place in the world.

  • The first time I registered this Roman portrait bust I was walking past many years ago, I had to stop and look at her because she looked like someone I knew. The deep intelligence that radiates from her eyes and her hand seems to be pushing out as if she's trying to get free, trying to have some agency in the world. I find

  • And this little dancer, she's caught in this moment of dancing, and you can imagine what steps she's going to take next.

  • that I'm attracted to images of women and daughters, and one of my favorites is of an accomplished woman who's playing a musical instrument and a little girl who stands behind her, looking at and looking up to this accomplished woman seated in front of her.

  • My fantasy about this piece is that the mother had the upholstery made for the front, and then she said to her daughter, "You're at school, I'll send you a canvas

  • shaped exactly the right way, please make me a back." And the

  • needlework on the back is clearly a schoolgirl work. It's kind of crude. And the back of this chair would have faced the wall. This was sort of a little secret.

  • This image, it is the ultimate anonymous portrait. This is a back, and a back of the head. It has a huge amount of power and a huge amount of sexiness, but I also am a little angered by it, because the woman has become ultimately, totally an object. The story

  • behind this quilt was that Adeline decided who were the most important people. She sent

  • out these little pieces of silk, she asked them each to autograph

  • the quilt that was going to be a portrait of her time.

  • Abraham Lincoln is on this, other presidents are on it, woman authors. This is like the Facebook of its day.

  • Sometimes I go to exhibitions where I am looking to be awed, I'm looking to be taken out of myself, but then I think there are other times where I may be going to look at art that will

  • explain to me who I am and my place in history itself. I'm really one of those anonymous women, when I'm gone

  • I will have some books that will be my record, but that's it and I do think about that and so I seem to like to put myself in line with all these women who've gone before me.

  • 53.179.13
    "The Indian Princess", ca. 1740–60, Unknown artist (American), Boston, Massachusetts, Linen embroidered with wool and silk thread, Inscribed: L S/B Gift of Mrs. Screven Lorillard, 1953 (53.179.13)
  • 2004.140
    Sampler, 1739, Ann Sayres (American), Linen embroidered with silk thread Purchase, Joel B. Leff Charitable Trust, M. B. and Fannie Finkelstein, and Charles C. Townsend Jr. Gifts, and Gift of Joan G. Hancock, in memory of Frances Burrall Henry, by exchange, 2004 (2004.140)
  • 2002.259
    Portrait of a Lady, 1764, Lawrence Kilburn (or Kilbrunn) (American), Oil on canvas Maria DeWitt Jesup Fund, 2002 (2002.259)
  • 2008.5
    A Family Group, ca. 1850, Anonymous (American), Oil on canvas Purchase, William Cullen Bryant Fellows Gifts, 2008 (2008.5)
  • 74.51.2698
    Childbirth scene, ca. 310–30 b.c.; Hellenistic, Cypriot; Said to be from the temple at Golgoi, Limestone The Cesnola Collection, Purchased by subscription, 1874–76 (74.51.2698)
  • 1972.118.104
    Steatopygous female figure, ca. 4500–4000 b.c.; Final Neolithic, Cycladic, Marble Bequest of Walter C. Baker, 1971 (1972.118.104)
  • 17.120.204
    Young Woman Drawing, 1801, Marie-Denise Villers (French), Oil on canvas Mr. and Mrs. Isaac D. Fletcher Collection, Bequest of Isaac D. Fletcher, 1917 (17.120.204)
  • 18.145.39
    Portrait bust of a woman, 200–230 a.d.; Severan, Roman, Marble Rogers Fund, 1918(18.145.39)
  • 1972.118.95
    Statuette of a veiled and masked dancer, 3rd–2nd century b.c.; Hellenistic, Greek, Bronze Bequest of Walter C. Baker, 1971 (1972.118.95)
  • 03.14.5
    Seated woman playing a kithara: From Room H of the Villa of P. Fannius Synistor at Boscoreale, ca. 40–30 b.c.; Late Republican, Roman, Wall painting; Fresco Rogers Fund, 1903 (03.14.5)
  • 50.228.3
    Easy chair, 1758, Caleb Gardner (American), American; Newport, Rhode Island, Walnut, maple Gift of Mrs. J. Insley Blair, 1950 (50.228.3)
  • 2005.100.1
    Woman Seen from the Back, ca. 1862, Onèsipe Aguado (French), Salted paper print from glass negative Gilman Collection, Purchase, Joyce F. Menschel Gift, 2005 (2005.100.1)
  • 1996.4
    Autograph quilt, ca. 1856–63, Adeline Harris Sears (American), Rhode Island, Silk with inked signatures Purchase, William Cullen Bryant Fellows Gifts, 1996 (1996.4)
  • 97.34
    Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1851, Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (German, active United States), Oil on canvas Gift of John Stewart Kennedy, 1897 (97.34)
  • 1999.144
    Portrait of Catherine Lorillard, ca. 1810, Anonymous (American), Silk ground cloth, painted with oil and embroidered with silk Purchase, Friends of the American Wing Fund, The Masinter Family Foundation Gift, and funds from various donors, 1999 (1999.144)
  • "The Indian Princess", ca. 1740–60, Unknown artist (American), Boston, Massachusetts, Linen embroidered with wool and silk thread, Inscribed: L S/B Gift of Mrs. Screven Lorillard, 1953 (53.179.13)
    Sampler, 1739, Ann Sayres (American), Linen embroidered with silk thread Purchase, Joel B. Leff Charitable Trust, M. B. and Fannie Finkelstein, and Charles C. Townsend Jr. Gifts, and Gift of Joan G. Hancock, in memory of Frances Burrall Henry, by exchange, 2004 (2004.140)
    Portrait of a Lady, 1764, Lawrence Kilburn (or Kilbrunn) (American), Oil on canvas Maria DeWitt Jesup Fund, 2002 (2002.259)
    A Family Group, ca. 1850, Anonymous (American), Oil on canvas Purchase, William Cullen Bryant Fellows Gifts, 2008 (2008.5)
    Childbirth scene, ca. 310–30 b.c.; Hellenistic, Cypriot; Said to be from the temple at Golgoi, Limestone The Cesnola Collection, Purchased by subscription, 1874–76 (74.51.2698)
    Steatopygous female figure, ca. 4500–4000 b.c.; Final Neolithic, Cycladic, Marble Bequest of Walter C. Baker, 1971 (1972.118.104)
    Young Woman Drawing, 1801, Marie-Denise Villers (French), Oil on canvas Mr. and Mrs. Isaac D. Fletcher Collection, Bequest of Isaac D. Fletcher, 1917 (17.120.204)
    Portrait bust of a woman, 200–230 a.d.; Severan, Roman, Marble Rogers Fund, 1918(18.145.39)
    Statuette of a veiled and masked dancer, 3rd–2nd century b.c.; Hellenistic, Greek, Bronze Bequest of Walter C. Baker, 1971 (1972.118.95)
    Seated woman playing a kithara: From Room H of the Villa of P. Fannius Synistor at Boscoreale, ca. 40–30 b.c.; Late Republican, Roman, Wall painting; Fresco Rogers Fund, 1903 (03.14.5)
    Easy chair, 1758, Caleb Gardner (American), American; Newport, Rhode Island, Walnut, maple Gift of Mrs. J. Insley Blair, 1950 (50.228.3)
    Woman Seen from the Back, ca. 1862, Onèsipe Aguado (French), Salted paper print from glass negative Gilman Collection, Purchase, Joyce F. Menschel Gift, 2005 (2005.100.1)
    Autograph quilt, ca. 1856–63, Adeline Harris Sears (American), Rhode Island, Silk with inked signatures Purchase, William Cullen Bryant Fellows Gifts, 1996 (1996.4)
    Washington Crossing the Delaware, 1851, Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (German, active United States), Oil on canvas Gift of John Stewart Kennedy, 1897 (97.34)
    Portrait of Catherine Lorillard, ca. 1810, Anonymous (American), Silk ground cloth, painted with oil and embroidered with silk Purchase, Friends of the American Wing Fund, The Masinter Family Foundation Gift, and funds from various donors, 1999 (1999.144)
    8000–2000 B.C.
    2000–1000 B.C.
    1000 B.C.–1 A.D.
    1–500 A.D.
    500–1000 A.D.
    1000–1400 A.D.
    1400–1600 A.D.
    1600–1800 A.D.
    1800–1900 A.D.
    1900–Present

    Works of art in order of appearance

    Last Updated: August 19, 2013. Not all works of art in the Museum's collection may be on view on a particular day. For the most accurate location information, please check this page on the day of your visit.

    "The Indian Princess"
    ca. 1740–60
    Unknown artist (American)
    Boston, Massachusetts
    Linen embroidered with wool and silk thread
    Inscribed: L S/B
    Gift of Mrs. Screven Lorillard, 1953 (53.179.13)
    On view: Gallery 714
    American Decorative ArtsFirst and Second Floors
    Sampler
    1739
    Ann Sayres (American)
    Linen embroidered with silk thread
    Purchase, Joel B. Leff Charitable Trust, M. B. and Fannie Finkelstein, and Charles C. Townsend Jr. Gifts, and Gift of Joan G. Hancock, in memory of Frances Burrall Henry, by exchange, 2004 (2004.140)
    On view: Gallery 708
    American Decorative ArtsFirst and Second Floors
    Portrait of a Lady
    1764
    Lawrence Kilburn (or Kilbrunn) (American)
    Oil on canvas
    Maria DeWitt Jesup Fund, 2002 (2002.259)
    On view: Gallery 719
    American Paintings and SculptureFirst and Second Floors
    A Family Group
    ca. 1850
    Anonymous (American)
    Oil on canvas
    Purchase, William Cullen Bryant Fellows Gifts, 2008 (2008.5)
    On view: Gallery 736
    American Paintings and SculptureFirst and Second Floors
    Childbirth scene
    ca. 310–30 b.c.; Hellenistic
    Cypriot; Said to be from the temple at Golgoi
    Limestone
    The Cesnola Collection, Purchased by subscription, 1874–76 (74.51.2698)
    On view: Gallery 171
    Greek and Roman ArtFirst Floor and Mezzanine
    Steatopygous female figure
    ca. 4500–4000 b.c.; Final Neolithic
    Cycladic
    Marble
    Bequest of Walter C. Baker, 1971 (1972.118.104)
    On view: Gallery 150
    Greek and Roman ArtFirst Floor and Mezzanine
    Young Woman Drawing
    1801
    Marie-Denise Villers (French)
    Oil on canvas
    Mr. and Mrs. Isaac D. Fletcher Collection, Bequest of Isaac D. Fletcher, 1917 (17.120.204)
    On view: Gallery 613
    European PaintingsSecond Floor
    Portrait bust of a woman
    200–230 a.d.; Severan
    Roman
    Marble
    Rogers Fund, 1918(18.145.39)
    On view: Gallery 169
    Greek and Roman ArtFirst Floor and Mezzanine
    Statuette of a veiled and masked dancer
    3rd–2nd century b.c.; Hellenistic
    Greek
    Bronze
    Bequest of Walter C. Baker, 1971 (1972.118.95)
    On view: Gallery 163
    Greek and Roman ArtFirst Floor and Mezzanine
    Seated woman playing a kithara: From Room H of the Villa of P. Fannius Synistor at Boscoreale
    ca. 40–30 b.c.; Late Republican
    Roman
    Wall painting; Fresco
    Rogers Fund, 1903 (03.14.5)
    On view: Gallery 164
    Greek and Roman ArtFirst Floor and Mezzanine
    Easy chair
    1758
    Caleb Gardner (American)
    American; Newport, Rhode Island
    Walnut, maple
    Gift of Mrs. J. Insley Blair, 1950 (50.228.3)
    On view: Gallery 749
    American Decorative ArtsFirst and Second Floors
    Woman Seen from the Back
    ca. 1862
    Onèsipe Aguado (French)
    Salted paper print from glass negative
    Gilman Collection, Purchase, Joyce F. Menschel Gift, 2005 (2005.100.1)
    Not on view
    PhotographsSecond Floor
    Autograph quilt
    ca. 1856–63
    Adeline Harris Sears (American)
    Rhode Island
    Silk with inked signatures
    Purchase, William Cullen Bryant Fellows Gifts, 1996 (1996.4)
    Not on view
    American Decorative ArtsFirst and Second Floors
    Washington Crossing the Delaware
    1851
    Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze (German, active United States)
    Oil on canvas
    Gift of John Stewart Kennedy, 1897 (97.34)
    On view: Gallery 760
    American Paintings and SculptureFirst and Second Floors
    Portrait of Catherine Lorillard
    ca. 1810
    Anonymous (American)
    Silk ground cloth, painted with oil and embroidered with silk
    Purchase, Friends of the American Wing Fund, The Masinter Family Foundation Gift, and funds from various donors, 1999 (1999.144)
    Not on view
    American Decorative ArtsFirst and Second Floors

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