RUTH HENSHAW BASCOM (1772-1848). CLASSIC PORTRAIT OF A BROWN-HAIRED YOUNG GIRL. PROBABLY MASSACHUSETTS, CIRCA 1830

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Pastel and pencil on paper 18 1/2 x 13 1/2 inches in a period gilt frame

This large portrait is one of the most beautiful and finest portraits of a young lady executed by Bascom. It remains in exceptional original condition.

Ruth Henshaw Bascom was born in Leicester, Massachusetts, a suburb of Worcester where she spent her childhood. Her first husband, in 1804, was D. Asa Miles, a Dartmouth professor.

After his passing in1806, she married the Reverend Ezekiel L. Bascom. Ruth Bascom lived in Massachusetts and New Hampshire throughout her life, which is where she produced her remarkable body of work. She seems to have executed only life-size profiles on paper, colored with pastel crayons and chalk. She would position the sitter in a dark room lit by candlelight to cast a shadow so she could trace the subject in pencil. She than added details including: ears, and eyes and then colored the picture. Some of her portraits are cutouts pasted to a colored sheet of paper. She would commonly add pieces of foil for ornamentation and accessories such as jewelry.

She kept a diary of her adult life where the first mention of her portrait work was on September 1819. Her early works were primarily on plain backgrounds while her later often included drapery swags and trees. Records indicate that Bascom produced some 1400 profiles, of which only about 200 are known to be extant. Of the remaining 200, only a few are true masterworks. Included in this elite group is Cynthia Allen, from the Barenholtz collection and illustrated in: Masterpieces from Two Private Collections, David A. Schorsch, pgs, 48-49, now in a private collection. Another notable example is a portrait of Elizabeth Cummings in the collection of Bertram K. and Nina Fletcher Little, illustrated in Sotheby’s October 21 and 22 1994, part 2 lot 947.

This remarkable portrait of a beautiful young lady, is among the elite few portraits included in Bascom’s masterpieces.

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