Ralph Earl (American, Worcester County, Massachusetts 1751–1801 Bolton, Connecticut)
Oil on canvas
42 1/2 x 32 in. (108 x 81.3 cm)
Gift of Edith and Henry Noss, 1991
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 755
The Connecticut portraits Earl painted after returning from a seven-year stay in England are his greatest works as they combined his natural talents with the lessons he had gleaned from English art of the period. He rendered most of this portrait of Esther Boardman (1762–1851) in deep shades of green and brown to highlight his sitter’s striking face. Her alert gaze suggests intelligence, and her coiffure and wraparound dress, or levite, reveal her to be at the height of fashion, as was her brother, Elijah (whose portrait is also in the Museum's collection; 1979.395). The background shows the town of New Milford, which the Boardman family had been instrumental in settling.
Signature: [at lower left]: R. Earl pint / 1789
descended in the Boardman family; Mrs. William S. Tyler, by 1945; her daughter, Edith and Henry Noss, Plainfield, New Jersey, by 1991