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Stiles and Foster Miniatures

 

Lydia Foster

 

 

 

LYDIA STILES FOSTER (1806-87), c. 1838
Eliza Goodridge (1798-1882)
watercolor on ivory
3 11/16 x 2 3/4 (9.3663 x 6.9850)
Bequest of Dwight Foster Dunn, 1937
Weis #55
Hewes #49

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THE FOSTER CHILDREN, 1838
Eliza Goodridge (1798-1882)
watercolor on ivory
4 x 3 3/8 (10.1600 x 8.5725)
Bequest of Dwight Foster Dunn, 1937
Weis #53
Hewes #53

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Foster Children

 

Lydia Foster

 

 

LYDIA STILES (1806-1887), c. 1825
Eliza Goodridge (1798-1882)
watercolor on ivory
3 3/4 x 2 3/4 (9.5250 x 6.9850)
Bequest of Harriet E. Clarke, 1944
Weis #56
Hewes #109

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LYDIA STILES (1806-1887), c. 1828
Eliza Goodridge (1798-1838)
watercolor on ivory
3 3/4 x 2 7/8 (9.5250 x 7.3025)
Bequest of Dwight Foster Dunn, 1937
Weis #57
Hewes #110

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Lydia Foster

 

 

The AAS collection includes three miniature portraits of Lydia Stiles and one of her family by Eliza Goodridge. The miniatures of Stiles alone were taken at different points in her life: at the conclusion of her schooling, her engagement to Alfred Dwight Foster, ten years after their marriage. The family portrait was taken in 1838.

Stiles was born in Templeton, Massachusetts, and attended Miss Fiske's Young Ladies Seminary, a boarding school in Keene, New Hampshire, graduating after four years at the age of eighteen. She was sent to boarding school because her father thought the experience would be valuable. He wrote, 'I prefer'd, painful as your long absence is to us, and I trust, no less so on some accounts, to yourself - to have you reside there and pursue your studies - the expense indeed is somewhat more, but I hope this will be more than compensated by your superior advantages in acquiring knowledge.'(1) In the engagement portrait, taken only three years later, Stiles wears the same hairstyle, tortoise-shell comb, and brooch. While the subject does not appear to have changed, the artist's style had matured. Goodridge had learned to moderate her backgrounds and to subtly blend skin tones for a more successful depiction of three dimensions.

Lydia Stiles married the Worcester lawyer Alfred Dwight Foster (1800-52) on February 14, 1828. She described her domestic life in a letter to him in 1833, 'I have very little leisure and scarcely a moment to myself free from some interruption or other. Dwight [their eldest child] will not stay in the chamber unless I am there and he is as full of mischief as you can imagine.'(2) Lydia Stiles Foster was an active member of the Union Congregational Church and supported her husband's interest in the American Antiquarian Society. After his death, she donated several volumes of bound newspapers, government documents, and annuals to the Society.(3)

This remarkable family miniature shows the children in 1838, Dwight (1828-84), Mary (1830-1900), and Rebecca (1832-1927). Dwight Foster, who graduated from Yale in 1848, was admitted to the bar in Massachusetts the following year. He rose to associate justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (1866-69). Elected to membership in the American Antiquarian Society in 1856, he served twice on the Council, from 1856 to 1863 and from 1880 to 1884. Mary married the Reverend Robinson Dunn in 1855 and lived in Worcester. A second miniature of Rebecca depicts her just before her 1853 marriage to Dr. Henry Clarke of Worcester.(4)

Eliza Goodridge, the artist, was eight years older than Lydia Stiles Foster, but both women had grown up in Templeton and were friends for many years. It is likely that Foster helped Goodridge secure commissions in Worcester. Goodridge stayed in the Foster home in the 1830s and 1840s both to take care of the children while the parents traveled and to accept commissions in Worcester. These two 1838 images offer abundant details of the family home: the mantelpiece, Argand lamp, sewing box, and paneled door provide a glimpse of the Fosters' parlor, while three other pieces of furniture and the staircase may be seen in the portrait of the children. Goodridge evidently used this parlor for her sittings, sometimes to Foster's dismay. In a letter to a sister, Lydia wrote: 'Miss Goodridge is still with us and has just dispatched the miniatures of Col. Dey and his wife of Webster, to my great joy, as I was tired of having them come to sit.'(5)



 

1)   John William Stiles to Lydia Stiles, June 1, 1820, John William Stiles Papers 1792-1838, American Antiquarian Society Manuscript Collection; for more on Miss Fiske's school, see Laurence Thompson, "Schools," in Upper Ashuelot: A History of Keene, New Hampshire, ed. Keene History Committee (Keene: City of Keene, 1986), 446.

2)   Lydia Stiles Foster to Alfred Dwight Foster, February 1833, Foster Family Papers.

3)   Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society (October 1863):21; and (April 1868):32.

4)   The Foster Family Papers 1740-1884, and Robinson Potter Dunn Papers 1825-1897, include their adult correspondence and personal papers. American Antiquarian Society Manuscript Collection.

5)   Lydia Stiles Foster to Mary Stiles Newcomb, March 21, 1838, Foster Family Papers.

The Foster Children Lydia Stiles Lydia Stiles Lydia Stiles Foster

 

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