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Mr. J. and Mrs. M. Hull
ca. 1800
Maker not marked
Watercolor on paper
mat: 14-31/4"h x 19-1/4"w; overall: 5-1/4"h x 8-1/4"w
Special Acquisitions Fund

a: Double bust three-quarter portrait of man and woman, Mr. and Mrs. J. Hull. Frontal portraits in ovals formed by leafy vine; blue bow at bottom. Mrs. Hull wears a hair comb, salmon-colored shawl with decorative braid and a white collar. Mr. Hull wears a black double-breasted jacket, gray-striped vest, white shirt, silver Masonic medal (oval with an arch motif) on a blue ribbon around his neck, a blue sash and Masonic apron with visible symbols (all-seeing eye, star with G in center, sun, moon, female figures). At top center are two entwined gray love birds. At bottom center in black is "Mr. J. Hull / aged 50 years / Mrs. M. Hull / aged 49 years" b: backing paper for this piece; ex. coll. Mr. and Mrs. James R. Meyer, East Haddam, CT. original piece of paper found inside frame of 78.47a (separate MIMSY b record).

For a small painting, this work is packed with clues about what the sitters valued. The unknown artist who portrayed Mr. J. and Mrs. M. Hull carefully detailed their clothing. Mrs. Hull’s comb and shawl, both likely imported items, speak to her fashion sense and prosperity. Mr. Hull chose to be shown in a smart jacket and vest wearing his Masonic regalia—a blue sash, a silver Masonic medal, and a colorful apron— identifying him as a proud member of the fraternity. For further information, see blog post, May 28, 2020, https://nationalheritagemuseum.typepad.com/library_and_archives/2020/05/well-matched-masonic-portraits-of-couples.html Abner Reed of East Windsor, Connecticut, a painter, sold aprons to his brother Freemasons. For his portrait, Mr. Hull chose to wear one of Abner Reed's designs. For further information, Hamilton, John D., "Material Culture of the American Freemasons," 1994, pp. 109, 267.

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