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Berniah Willet

ca. 1853 John Mix Stanley Born: Canandaigua, New York 1814 Died: Detroit, Michigan 1872 oil on canvas 34 1/8 x 26 3/4 in. (86.8 x 67.9 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Dr. and Mrs. George A. Haas 1982.104.1 Smithsonian American Art Museum
Luce Foundation Center, 3rd Floor, 1B

Luce Center Label

In the early 1850s, John Mix Stanley had a studio on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., where he created these portraits of Berniah and Emeline Willet (see also 1982.104.2). The Willets lived around the corner from Stanley and often walked past his studio to get to their carpentry shop on Eleventh Street. Emeline was born in 1807 in Montpelier, Vermont, and moved to Charles Town, West Virginia, with her father before marrying Berniah and settling in Washington. Berniah was born in 1799 and was described in an old record as a “man of learning” (E. J. Noell, handwritten letter, SAAM  curatorial file). These two portraits were painted to hang side by side, with Berniah and Emeline facing one another. Stanley portrayed Berniah as a distinguished gray-haired man in his fifties, in formal wear with quite a haughty expression. In contrast, his wife wears a less severe lace-trimmed gown and gazes directly at the viewer with a half-smile. The difference in their demeanors reflects the nineteenth-century roles of men and women---the husband as head of his household with his wife offering loving support.


Portrait male - Willet, Berniah - waist length


paint - oil

fabric - canvas

glass - fiberglass - support added

About John Mix Stanley

Born: Canandaigua, New York 1814 Died: Detroit, Michigan 1872

More works in the collection by
John Mix Stanley