According to family tradition, Eleanor "Nelly" Parke Custis, granddaughter of Martha Washington, painted this picture in memory of her cousin, Frances "Fanny" Bassett Washington Lear, who died in 1796. It follows the standard formula for memorial art of that era, in which a woman grieves at a monument in the midst of a garden. Such pictures combined both classical and Christian imagery to create a public expression of grief that would have been easily understood by contemporaries. In this example, stylized evergreens represent the hope of eternal life referenced in the monument's inscription: "She is not lost! Blest thought!/ But gone before/ me!"
Vertical, oval memorial picture painted in watercolor in shades of blue, green, black, and brown with gouache highlights on a rectangular sheet of paper within a black painted surround. To the left of the center, a grieving woman in a black, flowing gown with a high waist and long sleeves and long, curling hair bends over a marble monument with a large covered urn atop a square plinth. A small black and white dog lays at her feet. A small square of paper is pasted on the front of the plinth with the verse "She is not lost!/Blest thought!/ But gone before/ me!" written in script within a black painted surround. The scene is framed at the viewer's left by a stand of three towering willows and on the viewer's right by a row of five pointed evergreens. Rocks and small plants fill the foreground. A range of mountains is visible in the background at the viewer's left. The sky is filled with billowing clouds. The scene is lit from the viewer's right. The sheet of paper is folded under on both sides and at the top.
B, frame, and C, glass: For a description and dimensions of these pieces, see Components. For their dates, see Historical Dates.
Large, rectangular fragment of a newspaper printed on laid paper with four columns of text. The fragment was cut from the December 19, 1798 edition (Volume 30, Issue 31, Page 2) of the COLUMBIAN CENTINEL published in Boston, Massachusetts. For facsimiles of the fragment as well as the whole page of the newspaper, see the Curatorial File.
Watercolor, ink, gouache, laid paper
Overall (H x W of sheet): 12 1/4 in. x 10 1/8 in. (31.12 cm x 25.72 cm)
Watermark on the proper left side of the paper: "A BLACKWELL/ 1796".
Written in script on a square piece of paper pasted on the plinth: "She is not lost!/Blest thought!/ But gone before/ me!"
Written in script beneath the square piece of paper pasted on the plinth: "She is not [illegible]/[illegible]/[illegible]/ [illegible].
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