A native of Massachusetts, Cephas Thompson supported his large family by painting portraits. He opened temporary studios in the cities he visited along the eastern seaboard of the United States and advertised his services in local newspapers. Though he had little or no formal...
A native of Massachusetts, Cephas Thompson supported his large family by painting portraits. He opened temporary studios in the cities he visited along the eastern seaboard of the United States and advertised his services in local newspapers. Though he had little or no formal training as an artist, he built a successful career, selling over 500 portraits between 1806 and 1822. When making portraits, Thompson concentrated on the faces of his sitters. The full-length figures in "The Frightened Girl," though clothed in the fashionable dress typical of Thompson's portraits, were painted for a different purpose. They were probably not intended as likenesses, but rather to illustrate an interesting anecdote. The animated expression of the woman, the detailed landscape, and the interaction between the figures are all uncharacteristic of Thompson's oeuvre, and may indicate a popular print as a source for this composition. "The Frightened Girl" records a moment of human interaction - the romantic encounter of a young couple - interrupted by the presence of a threatening snake. The man seems quite pleased that his amorous intentions will succeed as the woman leaps into his arms to dodge the intruding reptile. Thompson man have painted this scene as a diversion from his many portrait commissions, as a learning tool to practice elements of painting not normally included in his portraits, or even as a commission from a patron not interested in traditional portraiture. Whatever the objective, Thompson created a charming and engaging scene of early nineteenth-century courtship. This text has been adapted from Kathleen Mrachek's entry in "Faces of History" (Nagoya/ Boston Museum of Fine Arts, 2005, in Japanese).
The artist; to Julius Thompson, his son; to Charles Frederick Thompson, his son, 1824; Madeleine Thompson Edmonds; to MFA, 1986, gift of Madeline Thompson Edmonds.
Gift of Madeleine Thompson Edmonds