Oliver Tarbell Eddy (American, 17991868)
Oil on canvas; 47 1/8 x 62 7/8 in. (119.7 x 159.7 cm)
Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch, 1966 (66.242.21)
Depicted here are the four oldest children of Stephen Ball Alling (18081861), a partner in the New Jersey jewelry firm of Alling, Hall, and Dodd, and Jane H. Weir (18111889). From left to right, they are Stephen Ball (18351839), Mary Wilder (born 1836), Cornelia Meigs (born 1833), and Emma (born 1831). The apparent ages of the children date the work to around 1839. The composition indicates that the portrait may have been painted shortly after Stephen's death that same year. His coloristic and spatial separation from his sisters, as well as the pool of light in which he stands, support this conclusion. Postmortem portraits were common in the nineteenth century, as families often desired likenesses of departed children. The artist painted a posthumous portrait of one of the cousins of the Alling children as well. Eddy's crisp, meticulous detail and vivid color temper somewhat his awkward anatomical drawing, all within a setting that is a document of early Victorian interiors. For group portraits like this one, the lack of interaction or integrated poses make it obvious that Eddy made separate studies of each sitter.