Joseph Moore and His Family
Erastus Salisbury Field (American, 1805–1900)
209.23 x 237.17 cm (82 3/8 x 93 3/8 in.)
Medium or Technique
Oil on canvas
Joyce and Edward Linde Gallery (Gallery 237)
In 1839, after a brief period of artistic training under Samuel F. B. Morse [48.455] in New York and more than a decade working successfully in the Connecticut River Valley as a portrait painter, Erastus Salisbury Field returned to Ware, Massachusetts, to live with his in-laws. Across the street lived the family of Joseph Moore, a traveling dentist in the summer when the roads were passable and a hatter in the winter months. This portrait of Field’s neighbors was the largest and most complex he ever painted.
Moore and his wife, Almira Gallond Moore, are shown nearly life-size, seated in gaily painted Hitchcock chairs and surrounded by attentive children—their two sons at right and their recently orphaned niece and nephew at left. Like many folk painters, Field combined careful attention to detail (scrupulously recording Moore’s birthmark, for example, and the ornate pattern of Mrs. Moore’s collar) with attractive eccentricities of composition and drawing. The figures and the features of the room are stringently balanced. Field’s perspective is haphazard: the mirror’s shadow recedes in the wrong direction, while the patterned carpet is not foreshortened and so appears to run uphill. And the children look like little elves, with pointy ears and stubby fingers.
The portrait remained in the family until 1958, when Maxim Karolik bought it for the MFA. At the same time, the Museum was presented with the chairs [RES.58.1], mirror [RES.58.3], and jewelry (a brooch [RES.58.6], a tie pin [RES.58.5], and a buckle [RES.58.7]) depicted in the portrait, as well as Joseph Moore’s dental tools [RES.58.4] and other objects.
This text was adapted from Gerald W. R. Ward et al., American Folk (Boston: MFA Publications, 2001).
By 1928, descended in family of the sitters to a great-granddaughter of Joseph Moore, Helen E. Farrar (born 1890), Sherborn, Mass.; 1957, sold by Helen E. Farrar to Maxim Karolik, Newport, R.I.; 1958, gift of Maxim Karolik to the MFA. (Accession Date: January 9, 1958)
Gift of Maxim Karolik for the M. and M. Karolik Collection of American Paintings, 1815–1865