Schoolgirl Watercolor of Mount Vernon by Charlotte Abbe

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Schoolgirl watercolor landscape painting is titled along the bottom: “Mount Vernon – The Seat of the Illustrious Washington”.  Inscribed on the reverse in period pencil, “Miss Abby, Picture $4.25”, and later in ink, “Painted by Charlotte Abbe when a girl about 1833.”

Connecticut River Valley, attributed to Charlotte Abbe (b.1821) of Enfield, 1830 – 1840.

Why is it special? This schoolgirl watercolor landscape painting is titled along the bottom:  “Mount Vernon – The Seat of the Illustrious Washington”.  It is inscribed on the reverse in period pencil “Miss Abby, Picture $4.25” and in later ink on tape “Painted by Charlotte Abbe when a girl about 1833.  Grandmother of Emma Sheldon Stewart.  Great Grandmother of Harold Stewart.”  The painting is attributed to Charlotte Abbe (b.1821) of Enfield, and dated between 1830 and 1840.   The style of the watercolor landscape supports the attribution to a schoolgirl working in the early 19th century, with the puffy sleeve dresses and oversized bonnets of the women in the foreground supporting a date between 1830 and 1840.  The scene is copied directly from a color engraving published by Samuel Seymour in 1804, illustrated in “George Washington Lived Here, Some Early Prints of Mount Vernon, Part 1” by Robert Harley, Figure 5.  As noted by the author, the Seymour print was taken from a painting by William Birch and was the first large print to accurately show Mount Vernon.   A small print of the scene was included in “Country Seats of North America”, which was published by William Birch in 1808.  The execution of the landscape painting in the 1830s demonstrates the revered position held by George Washington and Mount Vernon both.

Charlotte Abbe (b.1821) is listed as #661 in “Abbe-Abbey genealogy, in memory of John Abbe and his descendants”, by Cleveland Abbe and Mary Nichols, pages 207 and 321.  She was the daughter of Richard Abbe III (b.1788) and Charlotte Bement (b.1788) of Enfield, Connecticut.  She was the granddaughter of Richard Abbe II (1760-1831), who was born in Enfield in 1760. Richard Abbe II was a soldier in the Revolutionary War.  He enlisted from Enfield for six months, beginning in June, 1776, under Captain Hezekiah Parsons, Colonel Comfort Sage.  He was serving with the Connecticut Militia when he guarded General Prescott, who was captured on Rhode Island on July 1, 1780.  Richard Abbe II was Captain of the Enfield militia in 1792, as his father before him had been in 1779.  Charlotte Abbe’s great-grandfather, Richard Abbe I (1735-1807) was an active soldier during the French and Indian War and also served as a Lieutenant in response to the Lexington Alarm during the Revolutionary War.  He followed with additional Revolutionary War service as an officer in the Connecticut Line of the Continental Army.

According to the inscription on the back of the frame, Charlotte Abbe painted the watercolor about 1833, although the location is unknown, it was likely at a Female Academy in the Connecticut River Valley.  Charlotte Abbe was married in May 1841 to John Sheldon and the couple had three children together: Franklin John Sheldon, Richard Orlando Sheldon and Harriett Elizabeth Sheldon.  Franklin John Sheldon was born in 1846 and was married in 1870 to Miriam Glidden.  Among their children was Emma Louise Sheldon, who was born in 1877 and married in 1904 to Arthur Stewart.  Emma Sheldon Stewart is correctly noted on the ink inscription on the reverse of the watercolor as the granddaughter of Charlotte Abbe.  Arthur Stewart and Emma Sheldon Stewart had only one child together, Harold Stewart, who was born in 1905.  Harold Stewart is also correctly identified in the ink inscription as the great grandson of Charlotte Abbe.