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Lot 134    

Rare New York Folk Art Family Record
4/12/2014 - Americana: Live Salesroom Auction
American (possibly New York), 2nd quarter of the 19th century. A family record on paper featuring watercolor and pastel illustrations of the twelve stages of human life with accompanying text, often Biblical verse, surrounding a red pillared archway enclosing the names and significant dates concerning the Thorp and Beebe family, with details of a drawn red curtain in the upper corners and flowering rose above the record chart; 17.5 x 13.25 in. (sight), 21.25 x 17.25 in. (frame).

In addition to being a wonderful piece of folk art, the detailed images of period dress and interiors, charming text and personal sentiment featured in this family record make it a fascinating historical document. Along the bottom of the record is written The Twelve Different Stages/ Of Human Life:/From the Cradle to the Grave. Beginning in the lower left and moving up and around the archway are twelve captioned illustrations of each stage. First is a mother and two young children in an interior, with the caption: Man is born to trouble as/the sparks fly upward (Job 5:7). The next image shows an adolescent boy and girl dancing, with the text A day added to this life is a/day taken from it. This is followed by an image of a young man in romantic pursuit of a young woman in blue, labeled along the bottom, This is the time when folly reigns and top, Beauty is a dangerous snare. In the next image, the man and woman are shown walking arm and arm with text along the top Here Love is steadily sincere, followed by a scene of the couple with a small child, This offspring needs our care. 
At the top of the arch, the man and woman, now in middle age, are seated together under the verse O may I feel another's woe,/And hide the fault I see./That mercy I to others show,/That mercy shew to me (Stanza 10 of Alexander Pope's The Universal Prayer of 1738).
The first four images on the right side show the couple growing increasingly older together, accompanied by the verses As down Life's rugged path we tread/Let's look and see the past/The sacred records here behold/This points us to our last/We are now ready to be offered/up and the time of our depar/ture is at hand (2 Timothy 4:6). The illustration in the lower right shows the couple lying in bed with an angel arriving, over the text Man goeth to his long home;/The mourners go about the street ?(Ecclesiastes 12:5).
Along the bottom of the archway is a larger illustration of the mourning procession carrying the coffins to the cemetery, along with the words Here the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at Rest. (Job 3:17). This image contains details of an owl, symbol of death and wisdom, and a gravestone reading There is/rest in/Heaven.
Contained within the archway is the text So teach us to number our Days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom (Psalm 90:12) and a three-columned chart, labeled Births, Marriages, Deaths. It lists the names and dates of twelve family members (including two listed outside of the arch) with the surnames Beebe and Thorp.

This piece was featured in a 2002 episode of the Antiques Roadshow filmed in Kansas City, Missouri, with the appraisal by Nancy Druckman. Druckman attributed the record to Ruby Devol Finch (American, Westport, Massachusetts, 1804-1866). Finch was active from 1831-1843. She is known for vivid, intimate portraits and family records, produced for members of her community. Most of her known subjects and the recipients of her work lived within ten miles of her. While Finch certainly created work in a similar style, the family listed here, headed by Isaac Beebe (1798-1875), has been traced from New York to Illinois, placing them outside of Finch's known sphere and making it unlikely that she was the artist behind this piece. The fact that it is unsigned adds to this doubt.  Based on an 1850 census, the Beebe family was in Lisbon, Illinois by at least 1846, at the birth of Elihu Burritt. There are several distinct handwritings and inks present on the record, suggesting that it was added to over a period of time. It is likely that the record was created in New York and traveled with the family.

The artist of the this record succeeds in capturing the spirit of the time. The illustrations and text present a nineteenth century perspective on the trajectory of life with all of its challenges, triumphs and inevitable ending, imbued all the way through with religious devotion. The story of the man and woman in the illustrations is told with warmth and humor, assisted by perfectly chosen verses to accompany each stage. The personal trajectories of each family member are centrally listed, relating each one of their life journeys to the arc of life as presented in the images. The sophisticated rendering of the arch of classical columns and blooming rose lends structure and elegance to the composition, while the drawn curtains cleverly present the piece as a drama for the viewer.

This record functions simultaneously as a wonderful piece of American folk art and a memento of a historical period, with personal touches from the hand of both the artist and owner(s), the charming imperfections of misspellings, text running into margins and the addition of names in available space as a family grew.


Condition:  
Water damage across paper. Rubbing of pastel in top left and right corners.
Sold: $9,600.00
Price includes
Buyer's Premium
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