January 20, 2008

Crown jewel of Canadian portraits

What's wrong with this picture?

Calgary's infatuation with a dreary national portrait gallery is doomed to failure[W]hat is a tiny painting of an extinct Native woman worth to Calgarians?

The diminutive watercolour, an 1819 portrait of a female member of a now-extinct Newfoundland tribe, is considered the crown jewel of Canada's National Portrait Gallery collection.

If it can't attract visitors to the National Portrait Gallery--if and when the museum finds a home--nothing can.
The painting in question:

Demasduit, also known as Mary March (ca. 1796-1820), 1819Captured in 1819, Demasduit was one of the last surviving members of the now extinct Beothuk people of Newfoundland. This miniature, painted by the governor's wife, is the only known portrait of a Beothuk done from life.

Lady Henrietta Martha Hamilton (British, ca. 1780-1857)
Watercolour on ivory, 7.5 x 6.5 cm
Comment:  Below is an actual-size image of the painting of Demasduit.

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