Thursday, October 24, 2013

Portrait of Edward Church, Jr. and Family

 Edward Church' Jr., Elizabeth Bentley Church holding their daughter Elizabeth Hannah, and son Edward.
Elizabeth Hannah was born in April, 1809 so the date of the painting has to be 1809 or 1810. Painted by Jacques-Antoine Vallin. Oil on canvas. Size "rather large."

    This is the only reproduction of the third portrait of members of the Church family painted by Vallin that I have been able to find. Hopefully I can find one in color.

   Given the age of Hannah in this picture and the fact that apparently all three portraits were painted around the same time, one must conclude that Edward Church was 69 years old when his portrait was painted.

   My first thought when seeing this portrait of Edward, Jr. was John Meins' description of his uncle Benjamin as the "lean apothecary."

   I have revised my post on the "Women Church" portrait to add some information from the Church family history indicating a difference in opinion amongst family members as to the identity of the two younger women.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Edward Church Dubois Family

Edward Church Dubois' French Grammar Book
   I was contacted today by a member of the family of the descendants of Edward Church, Jr. by his French wife Marie Phillipe Dubois. This branch of the Edward Church family traces its roots to the marriage between Edward Church, Jr. and Marie Phillipe Dubois in Paris in the early 1800s. That marriage produced five children to include a son named Edward Church. The Church Dubois Family identifies Marie as an actress. If true, that certainly influences the reaction that marriage would have brought in very early nineteenth century France.*
   Edward Church, Jr. while still presumably married to Marie Phillipe, then, for some unknown reason, married Elizabeth Bentley in England, without divorcing Marie Phillipe. This Church family's lore has it that Elizabeth Bentley Church's father, learning of the bigamous marriage to Marie Dubois, financed a move for the Elizabeth Bentley Church family (to include the son Edward Bentley Church), to Kentucky, far from English society. The Church Dubois family is at a loss to explain Edward Jr.'s behavior and is as perplexed as the rest of us have become. Some speculate that it was Elizabeth Bentley's father who commissioned the portrait of the Church family by Vallin to somehow bizarrely document Edward's transgressions. But then, the Church women would have had to have been very desperate to go along with it. And would Edward, Jr. countenance it?
   Edward Church, the son of  the union between Edward Church, Jr. and Marie Dubois was born in St. Germaine, France on December 9th, 1806, migrated to Northampton Massachusetts circa 1844 and, in 1844, copyrighted a grammar book titled "Church's French Spoken." Edward then moved to London and married  Emma Davison there in 1845. He returned with his wife to the United States; their first child, Edward Church, was born in Cambridge, Mass in 1846. He arranged to have his grammar book printed in Philadelphia and then moved to that city. Unfortunately, his son, Edward, died there in July 1847. Overcome with grief, Edward and Emma moved back to London where their second son, also named Edward Church, was born in 1848. They returned to the United States in 1853.  In 1857, in New York City, Edward Church published his second French grammar book. Believing that the name "Church" had been a detriment to the sale of the first book, Edward decided to adopt his mother's maiden name, Dubois, and published and copyrighted the French grammar as "E.C. Dubois's System of Teaching French."
   The Church family then decided to continue with Edward's family name change and to this day refer to themselves as the "Church Dubois" Family.
   The Church Dubois family now has its roots in Rhode Island, returning to the state where the patriarch of the Church family, Col Benjamin Church, spent most of his life. Edward Church Dubois, the French Grammar author's son, was educated in Rhode Island, practiced law in Boston, but then moved to Rhode Island. where he served as Attorney General from 1894 to 1897 and as Associate and then Chief Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court from 1899 to 1914.
Edward Church Dubois

  I wonder what the Colonel and the Deacon would have made of this.
                      There are family histories and there are family histories! 
* The following is from an essay by Lenard R. Berlanstien, Professor of History at the University of Virginia, on the perception of French actresses in France in the nineteenth century and a specialist on the subject:
In France women were banned from the stage until the early seventeenth century, and for the next two hundred years, respectable people held them at arm's length. Compared with developments in other countries, French acceptance of women on stage as normal and desirable required a particularly protracted and contentious struggle between advocates of enlightenment and those of morality...Starting in the eighteenth century, French opinion makers began to say that men could appear on stage honorably but women could not.


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Portrait of the Women Church

Hannah Skinner Church, Elizabeth Maria Church, and Elizabeth Bentley Church, by Jacques-Antoine Vallin, oil on  canvas,  (83 1/4 by 62 in.) 1809 (?)

      This large painting by Jacques-Antoine Vallin depicts three women in the family of Edward Church. Seated to the left is Hannah Skinner Church (Edward's second wife); her daughter Elizabeth Maria Church (known as Maria, life dates unknown) stands in the middle and Elizabeth Bentley Church (1787-1850), wife of Edward Church's son, Edward Jr. is seated on the right. Elizabeth Bentley Church is holding a letter which she is reading to her in-laws. Looking up, she pauses as if waiting for a reaction to the contents of the letter. The women's glances and gestures, and even the colors of the dresses, carry the viewer's attention from the white dress on the right to the gray dress at center to the darker dress on the left, worn by the most discouraged -looking of the three women.

   And what is in the letter? Church family lore identifies it as evidence that Elizabeth Bentley Church's husband, Edward Church Jr., was a bigamist and had married a woman named Marie Dubois in 1799. Although Edward Jr. had children by Marie Dubois it is not certain that he ever married her. That the Church women knew of his relationship with Marie Dubois and that he had children by her, there is little doubt. Edward Jr. had married Elizabeth Bentley, an Englishwoman, in Derby, England and they had two children, - Edward Bentley Church (1807-1847) and Elizabeth Hannah Church (1809-1889/90).

   A Church family history reflects a disagreement as to the identity of the two younger women in the portrait. Two Church women identified them as the daughters of Hannah, the seated one Maria and the standing one Elizabeth; another that the young woman standing is Fanny and the one seated is Maria.. Another family member avers the two are Hannah's daughter Elizabeth and Elizabeth (Bentley) Church. I think the best evidence is that the seated young woman is Elizabeth Bentley Church and the standing one, one of Hannah's daughters.

   Edward Church, Jr. was born in Boston in 1779, educated in England and France, and served as an officer in Napoleon's army.  He left Paris for London with Elizabeth Bentley Church and their two children in November 1809 and returned to the United States in 1811, purchasing a farm in Lexington, Kentucky. In 1817, James Madison appointed him consul to L'Orient, France so Church lived in Europe again until 1832 when returned to Kentucky.

   To enrich matters further, Jacques-Antoine Vallin painted a third picture of the Church family. This one is of the same dimensions of the painting of the Church women but it depicts Edward Church, Jr. with his wife Elizabeth Bentley and their two children.

   Upon his return to Kentucky in 1832, Edward Jr. brought all three portraits back with him. He proposed their future display in an ideal small villa which was never built. He imagined placement of the paintings in a grand second floor salon.

   Now, this is a family history!


Monday, October 21, 2013

Portrait of Edward Church

Edward Church by Jacques-Antoine Vallin (c. 1760-1835?), oil on canvas, 1809 (?). Vallin was a French painter of mythological and historical subjects as well as landscapes. He studied at the Academie Royale de Peinture in Paris and exhibited at the Paris Salon from 1791 to 1827. His paintings, neoclassical in style and subject matter, repeated well known themes of the day. His other portraits include a group portrait of Edward's wife, daughter, and daughter-in-law,  and the French oculist Joseph Nicholas Blaise Forlenze, (1807; National Gallery of Art, London )exhibited at the Salon in 1808.
This portrait is now owned  by William Church Hagler, Edward Church's great x6 grandson. 

    I was recently astonished and delighted to be contacted by a direct descendant of Edward Church, who advised me that he has a full length portrait of Edward Church (along with some other family portraits) in his possession. The family dates this portrait as being painted in 1809 when Edward would have been sixty-nine years old. If so, he is a rather youthful looking sixty-nine. Edward was living in Paris as early as 1797 or 1798 so the portrait could have been painted some years earlier. Edward served as US consul in Lisbon from 1792 to 1796.
   In any event, this portrait is as close as we are ever likely to come to ascertaining just what Dr. Benjamin Church, Jr. and his father the Deacon looked like, assuming that they shared the same physical characteristics as Edward -  likely, but not certain.
   I will leave it to the reader to make his/her own assessment, for now. My own view will follow.
   I was also informed of a self-published, hitherto unknown to me, family genealogy/history of the Edward Church branch of the family. There is no copy in the Library of Congress and the book is out of print but there are single copies scattered in libraries across the country. I have decided to delay my next post on Edward Church until such time as I have had the opportunity to review this book and do any research that may be required as a result of that review.
   In the interim I have been able to confirm that Edward's son Benjamin died at the age of two, further cementing my belief that Benjamin Jr. never had a son named Benjamin.
   Oh, by the way, in keeping in step with his brother Benjamin, the Church family indicates that Edward died in London, and left the bulk of his estate to his mistress.
   For now, I just remain delighted to be able, after all of these years, to look at an authentic likeness of a male member of the Church family.