Erastus Salisbury Field (1805–1900)

Portrait of a Woman said to be Clarissa Gallond Cook, in front of a Cityscape, c. 1838

Oil on canvas, 34 3/4 x 28 3/8 in. (88.3 x 72.1 cm). Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Art Acquisition Endowment Fund, 2000.4

Early in his long career, Erastus Salisbury Field was an itinerant portraitist in Massachusetts. He often received commissions to paint likenesses of several members of a single family, such as the Gallonds. This painting is virtually identical to his 1838 portrait of the sitter’s sister Louisa Gallond (Shelburne Museum, Vermont). Clarissa and Louisa were married to brothers in the Cook family, merchants who owned a Hudson River schooner. Although women were typically portrayed alongside natural elements emblematic of virtue and piety, here Field presented Clarissa before a prosperous port city. Her bright-eyed expression conveys her firm command of the domain depicted and suggests that she may have been active in her family’s business. Field’s portraits, such as this one, were emblematic tributes to the status and character of America’s burgeoning merchant class.

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