Thomas Sully (American, b. England, 1783-1872)
Sally Etting, 1808
- Oil on canvas
- 30 x 25 in. (76.2 x 63.5 cm)
- The Jewish Museum, New York
- Gift of William Wollman Foundation, F 4610
- Describe the sitter. What do you notice about the way she’s dressed, her hairstyle, the setting?
- What choices did the artist make in representing his subject? What do you notice about the background? Why might an artist choose to include few details in the background? How does the artist depict light to focus your attention?
- What is the mood of the painting? How has the artist created this mood w
ith his use of color and brushstroke? If you were going to add a soundtrack to this painting, what would it sound like?
- Based on your observations, when do you think this portrait might have been painted?
FOR FURTHER DISCUSSION:
After giving students ample opportunity to examine Sally Etting, lead them in a discussion of related topics and themes:
- This portrait was painted in 1808. Why do you think someone would commission a portrait of himself or herself at that time? Is there anything comparable today?
- This woman is Sally Etting, a member of the small Jewish community in the United States in the early 19th century. Most portraits of American Jews at the time did not identify the sitters as Jewish. Why might that have been?
- In the portrait, Sally Etting is presented as an American woman. What do you think it means to look or act “American”? Do you think it means the same thing today that it did in Sally’s time? Do you think it is reasonable to draw conclusions about Sally Etting’s identity solely from her portrait?
- Although American Jews in Sally’s time did not usually identify themselves in their portraits as Jewish, they often identified with being Jewish in other ways (for example, by engaging in religious practice, giving children Hebrew names, or being involved in the Jewish community). Do you present different aspects of your identity in different situations? Why?
RESEARCH TOPICS / CONTENT CONNECTIONS
- The Federal Period in America
- Early Jewish Life in America
- Assimilation and Acculturation