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Artist
Carl Brandt
Title
Mary Telfair (1791-1875)
Date
1896
Medium
oil on canvas
Dimensions
Framed: 89 3/4 × 64 1/4 inches (228 × 163.2 cm)
Tags
Painting
Credit Line
Museum purchase.
Accession Number
1896.1
Carl Brandt was the first director of the Telfair, serving in that capacity from 1883 until his demise in 1905. His portrait of local philanthropist Mary Telfair (1791-1875), whose bequest of her home to the public as an “academy of arts and sciences” allowed the creation of the Telfair Museum of Art, was commissioned by the museum’s trustees. Brandt chose to portray Mary as she had appeared fifteen years before her death, seated in a gold plush chair wearing a severe black dress with a white lace collar matching her lace cap. A fringed white shawl is draped on her shoulders.

In testimony to her keen intellect and appreciation of literature, Mary’s left hand rests upon a book lying open on an exquisite table. The profile of the god Apollo on the cameo at her throat symbolizes her love of poetry. Her small feet rest on a crimson cushion, perhaps because her diminutive size (she was just five feet tall) prevents them from reaching the floor.