Bronze portrait relief, golden brown patina
The wife of Nathaniel S. Hathaway, Eliza Gardner Vanderveer (1859-1945) was from the prominent Vanderveer family of honored physicians who summered on Eastern Long Island and the islands in the Sound. Eliza was related to the Dutch Quakers who found refuge there from the persecution they had faced because of their pacifist and abolitionist beliefs and their activity in the Underground Railroad. They sought out quiet uninhabited areas to be alone to practice their meditative spirituality and to shelter escaping slaves. The islands allowed them to separate themselves from the mainstream. New Bedford and the area along the shores of New England and New Jersey became enclaves at first and the movement spread inland to Pennsylvania. Quaker Meeting Houses are still in use in this area today.
One belief Quakers held that caused much trouble for them was that holding slaves was not Christian. Their anti-slavery views were at the core of the Abolitionist Movement in which the Hathaways were active. The Colonial colony of Germantown on the outskirts of Philadelphia was the location of the first formal protest against slavery in 1688. It was here that Eliza had a family home that became a second residence for herself and her husband Nathaniel Hathaway and it was here that she lived until her death. On the site of the old house is now an apartment building called the Hathaway House at 515 West Chelten Avenue in Germantown, PA, the address listed at the end of the Allen diary. He visited the Hathaway family there in May of 1918 and had photographs taken of the grandchildren from which he modeled a double portrait in relief..
The bas relief portrait of Eliza is shown in a left-facing profile, very slightly turned toward the viewer with the inner corner of her right eyebrow barely showing. Light shines on the flat of her forehead. The skull is centered in the frame front to back with her face in the forward (left) half. Her torso is slightly turned with the right shoulder fading away in perspective, delineated only by an inscribed line from under the chin to the mid-chest.
Eliza’s face is the focus of the portrait with her cheekbone, orbital arch, bridge and tip of her nose highlighted. Her hair softly sweeps across the top of her forehead into a wave over the curve of her ear and up from the base of the skull into a braid pinned to the center back of her skull. Tiny stray hairs are either raised with clay or incised into it at the back of her neck. The ear and hair are impressionistic in style, but details in the face bring it to life realistically: hairs of the eyebrow, downcast eye with wrinkles at the corner, openings in a pretty nose, slightly puffed and sagging skin of cheek and jaw, accentuated by a wrinkle where the diagonal fold of the lower jaw skin meets the upright neck flesh.
The quietude of a meditative Quaker characterizes her demeanor and the flat starched white collar with large points and a stitched band across the end of her shoulder adds to the feeling of silence and completes the conservative look. The simple flatness of the collar picks up the flatness of the side of the wooden pew at the base of the composition, the very flatness adding a quiet quality harmonious with the presentation. Her body appears to be within the pew with the forearm disappearing behind it below the elbow. The top of the forearm swoops down and forward in a modern simplified curving line merging into the simple graphic flat edge of the wooden pew hiding her lower body from just above the waist. The back of her forward arm is clearly drawn, carved into the clay as is the front of her chest on the opposite side; just simple lines, no details. There is a shallow combed texture in the ground across the lower half of the portrait, with stronger lines behind and before her body and across the arm closest to the viewer. The ground in the upper half of the composition is almost smooth in contrast to both the details of the head and face and the subtle textures in the lower half.
There is wisdom, harmony and balance in the woman and in her portrait.
Eliza and Nathaniel had two daughters, Susan and Sylvia. Sylvia married Attorney Harold Evans whose own family were Abolitionists during the days of the Underground Railroad. Their daughter Susan married Edward Day Thurston in Germantown with whom she had a son, naming him after his father and grandfather. He died in 1921 his third year and the grief-stricken couple moved to Sharon in Litchfield County Connecticut where they buried him at Hillside Cemetery and lived out their days.
There is a photo of Allen taken in his studio, probably about 1920 judging by the eighteen sculptures around him. On the wall behind him seems to be a family grouping of bas-relief portraits. If that is so, then some of the work may be identifiable. In the center are two double portraits of children, one of which is the little Evans girls. In the second the children appear to be a little older, so probably those of Dr. Swift (1919). On either side of them are portrait reliefs in plaster of two different women. Below the woman on the right is a small round dark portrait of a baby. Without photographs for identification, one must make an educated guess. The woman on the right seems younger and below her is the baby, presumed to be little Edward Day Thurston who was sculpted by Allen in 1920. “Thurston Baby Boy” is recorded in Allen’s diary without a price. Because the baby is below the younger woman, the guess would be that Allen hung them that way because she was his mother, or Susan Shoemaker Hathaway Thurston. In his list of work, there is a Thurston relief dated 1919 for $500. No relief of Susan Thurston is mentioned specifically but it’s doubtful that he would have charged so much for the baby’s small portrait leading to the supposition that there may have been one he didn’t list. The woman on the left is then perhaps Sylvia beside the double portrait of her daughters.
Golden brown patina
Size: 6 7/8 w x 8 15/16 h x 1/4 thick at base
Signed: F.W.ALLEN 1919, bottom right corner above base at elbow
Stamped: Gorham Founders OBAC
FAMILY OF NATHANIEL and ELIZA HATHAWAY:
SUSAN SHOEMAKER HATHAWAY THURSTON
THURSTON CHILD, Edward Day Thurston III
SYLVIA HATHAWAY EVANS
EVANS CHILDREN, Sylvia and Margaret
Portraits cast in plaster and baby Edward in bronze