Ethan Allen Greenwood was an itinerant portrait painter when he completed these likenesses of the Whittemore family. His records note that he painted over twenty portraits of members of various branches of the Whittemore family – Amos and his brothers. Four of the paintings are in our collection, those of Helen Weston Whittemore and Amos Whittemore, and two of their younger children, Gershom and Letitia. Read more about the Greenwood paintings in our collection in our Spring 2023 newsletter
These images can also give us some clues about intergenerational stylistic changes in costume and hairstyle. The period was defined by “neoclassical” dress which was distinctive from earlier styles – taking cues from classical antiquity and the Napoleonic wars. Both thirteen year old Letitia and her forty nine year old mother sport the high-waisted gauzy dress in pale colors. But Helen wears an old fashioned lace collar and conservative cap. Letitia’s hair is all the rage for 1812 – pulled dramatically into a topknot bun with tiny ringlets falling down. Letitia’s dramatic décolleté and short sleeves might be surprising to us but were all a part of the neoclassical revival in fashion. Both women wear gold chains with pendants tucked into their breasts. The size and shape of both pendants are telltale signs of mourning images or miniatures. More can be seen of Helen’s pendant and it appears to be a miniature portrait, perhaps one of her four children who had already preceded her in death.
Men’s fashion was becoming a bit more staid in the 19th century but fifty three year old Amos and sixteen year old Gershom also illustrate the ornamentation of youth. Both wear dark tailored tailcoats and white linen shirts with high collars, ruffles, and cravats. Gershom’s suit, however, sports gold buttons and a gold waistcoat, and his hair is short on the side and long on the top, curled or brushed up for height.
The remaining paintings from this suite are in various public and private collections. We currently know of three of them. The painting of younger brother William Whittemore’s wife Rebecca Tufts Whittemore is in the collection of Old Sturbridge Village. Images of Amos Whittemore Jr. and Rebecca Russell Whittemore seen in this historic image of the couple’s parlor (shown in historic photo above and in the images below) still belong to a descendant.
Greenwood Paintings in Museum Collections Elsewhere
Because Greenwood’s diary looked like a who’s who of the various Boston area elites. As a result many of his paintings exist in local museum collections.
Know of any others? Leave a comment . . .