Self Portrait

Sarah Goodridge (American, 1788–1853)


9.52 x 6.73 cm (3 3/4 x 2 5/8 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Watercolor on ivory

Not On View





In this miniature self portrait, Sarah Goodridge (sometimes spelled Goodrich) depicted herself staring out of the composition with a poised directness, implying confidence in herself and her artistic abilities. According to the artist’s sister Eliza, who also became a miniature painter, Sarah began studying art by reading a book on drawing and painting. In 1805 she moved to the Boston area where she took drawing lessons, but it was only after she worked with an unidentified miniature painter from Hartford, Connecticut, that she began experimenting with painting in this medium. Goodridge opened a studio in Boston in 1820 and perfected her artistic skills by studying with the leading American portraitist of her time, Gilbert Stuart. Although Stuart specialized in large-scale works in oil, he purportedly painted one of his only miniatures (General Henry Knox, about 1820, Worcester Art Museum) as a demonstration piece for Goodridge.
This self portrait demonstrates Goodridge’s characteristic realism, with every detail-down to the tiny wrinkles around her eyes-painstakingly delineated. The artist’s evident self-assuredness was well-warranted. By 1830 she had become one of the leading miniaturists in Boston, executing as many as two paintings a week and supporting herself and her family through her art. She received commissions from such famous individuals as Daniel Webster, General Henry Lee, and her teacher, Gilbert Stuart, and exhibited her miniatures at the annual exhibitions of the Boston Athenaeum between 1827 and 1835. Such accomplishments were truly remarkable in the antebellum American art world, in which talented women were rarely given the opportunity to achieve such levels of success.

This text was adapted from Davis, et al., MFA Highlights: American Painting (Boston, 2003) available at


The artist; Samuel E. Appleton, Reading, Mass., a relative of the artist; to Miss Harriet Sarah Walker; to MFA, 1895, gift of Miss Harriet Sarah Walker.

Credit Line

Gift of Miss Harriet Sarah Walker