“Jephthah Laments His Rash Vow,”

“Jephthah Laments His Rash Vow,”

Mary Lewis, Misses Patten School,
Hartford, Connecticut, circa 1800

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sight size: 17” x 19” • framed size: 22” x 23½” • sold

From the Book of Judges in the Old Testament, Jephthah led the Israelites in the battle against the Ammonites and in consolation he offered to sacrifice whatever next came through the door to his house. His daughter then walked through the door, which he immediately regretted, of course. This image, entitled “Jephthah Laments His Rash Vow,” portrays this dramatic scene.

Mary Lewis worked this popular depiction at Misses Patten School in Hartford, Connecticut. This subject has been recorded as being worked at both Misses Patten and Lydia Bull Royse schools; however, the palm trees and white picket fence in the background are indicative of the silk embroideries from the Misses Patten school. The Patten sisters, Sarah, Ruth and Mary were granddaughters of Rev. Eleazer Wheelock (1711-1779), the founder of Dartmouth College; they taught the daughters of the prominent citizens of Hartford and beyond.

While the notable school attributions are quite nice in the painted background, Mary’s needlework is what creates the richness and depth. The four minstrel daughters look upon each other while playing stringed instruments in the portico. A lush chenille drapery with gold fringe frames them well. Jephthah, in full military garb, raises a hand in their direction, but faces a soldier, who, most interesting to note, is carrying what appears to be a rendition of an American flag. This depiction must have added a most appealing personal touch to the young American needleworker, Mary Lewis. The lines of the figures’ head tilts, gazes and outreached arms, the bending of trees and the gold valance all work well to keep the viewer engaged.

Worked in silk, chenille, metallic thread and pen and ink and watercolor on silk, Mary’s picture is in excellent condition with one split and two minor areas of weakness to the silk. It remains in its fine original gold leaf frame with the original eglomisé glass, with the name Mary Lewis and title painted onto the glass. 

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