Erastus Salisbury Field (American, 1805–1900)
Oil on canvas
58 3/4 x 30 1/4 in. (149.2 x 76.8 cm)
Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch, 1963 (63.201.4)
When this painting entered the Museum's collection, the sitter was identified as Mary Werner Bangs (18161856) and dated around 1830. Subsequently, the identification of the sitter was changed to Ellen Tuttle Bangs (born 1828) and the painting redated to 183840; however, the marked resemblance of Field's painting to a color photograph has encouraged scholars to conclude that the work was derived or copied from a photograph. Field learned to make daguerreotypes in New York from 1842 to 1848, and only returned to Springfield, Massachusetts, where the work was probably executed, in 1845 and again after 1854. This redating precludes the possibility that Ellen Tuttle Bangs is the sitter. The portrait descended in her family, therefore it may depict one of her daughters or a younger sister. The small size of the work's original source lends its enlarged detail a certain indistinctness. The girl's flat, almost monochromatic coloring is also probably attributable to the photographic source, as is the nebulous effect behind the sitter's head, an imitation of the solarization often found in early photographs.