b. Malta, NY 26 June 1803, d. Havana, Cuba 29 Dec 1852. This is an impressive portrait of a man with whom we are clearly expected to be impressed. Marvin graduated Union College class of 1826 and then studied law, passing the NY Bar in 1829; elected 1833 to the NY state Legislative Assembly, later served as a judge on the Saratoga County Court, and was the presiding judge for the Court of Common Pleas from 1838 to 1847 until the court was abolished by the new NY state Constitution; served as Postmaster for Saratoga Springs during Tyler & Polk administrations; started first bank at Saratoga with brother, James Madison Marvin, and in 1835 procured the first charter in NY State for a fire insurance company upon the mutual plan; in 1851-1852 served as a Saratoga Springs Supervisor; along with his legal career, Marvin also jointly managed the United States Hotel in Saratoga Springs from 1832 until his 1852 death while visiting Havana, Cuba; married Harriet Fraser Lyons, 8 Feb 1837. With this portrait, ostensively done soon after Cook's return to the USA, the artist shows that he has left Lemuel Dickinson and Parrit Blaisdell far behind and has skillfully mastered the standard artistic conventions for painting a person of prominence: the strongly modeled face, the regal pose, the classical background with roseate sky, the index finger in the book. In fact, although signed on lower back right "Painted by Nelson Cook/Saratoga Spgs/1839," the artistic sophistication achieved by Cook here is more consistent with the maturer style the artist exhibited ten years later [see Payn Bigelow (1849) and Hannah Bigelow (1849)]. This may be indicative of the special care Cook took when crafting Marvin's portrait or perhaps an incorrect date was assigned by a conservator. Regardless, Marvin's likeness is what has been called the "ultimate extravagance": portraitists of the day often set their fees based on the pose, from the "low end" of a simple bust, to a bust with one hand displayed, to, as here, a seated portrait with both hands showing. This painting came to Union College through Hiram C. Todd (with the State Attorney General's office and former chairman of the Union Board of Trustees), who inherited and lived in Marvin's home in Saratoga Springs following Marvin's daughter Mary Louise Sackett's 1826 death; the selling of the home and dispersal of its contents in 1944 brought Cook's handsome portrait to Union, where Mary Louise had earlier established several funds in her father's name. The portrait is oil on canvas with dimensions of 36" X 29" and as of July 2020 it was on display on the south wall of the Hale House dining room at Union College.
Courtesy of the Union College Permanent Collection.
b. New York, NY 9 Nov 1803, d. Saratoga Springs, NY 14 Dec 1852. Daughter of Samuel and Lavina Lyons of New York City; 8 Feb 1837 married Judge Thomas Jefferson Marvin in NYC; had five children in total, with only two living to adulthood (Mary Louise and Virginia). This painting was part of the Marvin family items Hiram C. Todd inherited and subsequently auctioned in 1944. In particular, Harriett's portrait found its way to the Bethesda Episcopal Church in Saratoga Springs, NY where it resided in the Bethesda Parish House for an unknown period of time. Alas, the portrait's current disposition is unknown and all that remains is the below black and white photo from Hiram Todd's 23 Sep 1944 auction catalogue, which, oddly, never mentions the sitter by name. The catalogue says this about the painting: "Knee-length portrait of a lady, slightly to the right, with dark curly hair, wearing a long-sleeved dark green dress, cut below shoulder, with white lace trimming; a sheer red scarf draped over her right shoulder..." as with Thomas's portrait, the painting is inscribed on the back: "Painted by Nelson Cook/Saratoga Spgs/1839." Since the painting is a companion piece to her husband's portrait, it is also presumed to be oil on canvas with dimensions of 36" X 29".
b. Ballston Spa, NY, 19 Nov 1807 - d. Saratoga Springs, NY, 12 Apr 1868; buried Ballston Spa (NY) Village Cemetery; son of Judge Samuel Cook of Berkshire County, MA (apparently no relation to artist); financier; held a number of local offices; Democrat turned Whig (ca 1836); delegate to State Constitutional Convention of 1846; State Senator (1848-51, 1864-65), State Treasurer (1853), State Comptroller (1854-55), State Banking Department head (1856-61); withdrew his name for consideration as Republican governor of NY (1858); commissioner of the Rensselaer & Saratoga Railroad when chartered in 1832, a founder and president of Ballston Spa Bank, major general in State Militia; m. Elizabet (sp?) Ann Barnum (1809-1831) of Ballston Spa and distant relation to PT Barnum, 1829; second wife Anna Cady. This work marks a clear departure from the artist's early Canadian portraits: Flat "primitive" backgrounds give way to billowing clouds and a theatrical Greek column, simple clothing becomes formal gentleman's attire, complete with velvet lapels, walking stick and high hat; Cook shows off his increasing skill by foreshortening the inside of his subject's hat in foreground, but a Metropolitan Museum critic takes him to task for poor differentiation of textures and the "tubular quality" of his forms. Inscription on back, apparently added by conservator after lining, reads "Painted by Nelson Cook/Ballston Spa/1840".
Courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art
b. ca 1809 - d. 18 Feb 1860; buried Ballston Spa (NY) Village Cemetery; only daughter of Shuler Cady and Catharine Phillips Cady of Florida, NY; second wife of James Merrill Cook, m. 1833 at 12th Street Presbyterian Church, NYC; mother of three children, spent her married life at home in Ballston Spa, NY. This painting and that of her husband were used to illustrate The Book of Costume by Millia Davenport (1948), which says that Anna's attire shows a "slight provincial time lag" in fashion, to be seen in her "neck and sleeves and coarse mesh net and lace morning dress. Hair looped above the line of the ears in the simplest way of the 30's. Good band of deep lace...has been pleated together in a fan to give it play." This companion piece to her husband's echoes the mood of the latter with a Greek column in the background, a bonnet in hand in the foreground; her attire is carefully detailed, "often a hallmark of the self-taught painter," says the Metropolitan Museum critic. Inscribed on the back by conservator after lining: "Painted by Nelson Cook/Ballston Spa/1840".
Courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art
b. ca. 1835 - d. ?; unidentified boy with his dog. Although we know Cook completed portraits of at least 15 infants and children with or without their parents, this is only one of two Cook portraits known to exist depicting a live animal (see Millard Powers Fillmore). The artist has shown the young boy in all his grown-up finery, including a hat and walking stick, making it easy to see how the painting got its name. Cook also has skillfully captured the small dog lovingly and loyally looking back up at his master as if to say, "Play time!" Although a chair appears in the background, it is not Cook's customary red chair. Instead, it would appear the artist has used a red drapery in the window as his accent piece for this particular rendering. The portrait was part of the Hiram C. Todd collection that was auctioned off in Sep 1944. There is no record of who purchased "Little Dandy" from Todd, but it may have been Maxim Karolik, who originally was an opera singer with the Petrograd Grand Opera in Russia. However, he wasn't successful in this line of work, and in 1928 Karolik married a very wealthy Bostonian, which allowed Karolik to put together a very extensive early American art collection, including "Little Dandy." In 1957 Karolik sold "Little Dandy" and many other art pieces to the Shelburne Museum, and in 1961 the Museum purchased many other pieces from Karolik. Thanks in part to Karolik's keen eye, today the Shelburne Museum's collection is a veritable "Who's Who" of world-renowned artists. Other than the foregoing, information about the portrait is scarce. But we do know it was shown in late 1960 at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute in Utica, NY for an exhibit entitled "Art Across America" with other 18th and 19th century artists, including John Singleton Copley and Thomas Cole, as well as modernists; the program from that exhibit reads: "Painted in Saratoga Springs..., this little boy with his fluffy dog is a very symbol of 19th-century elegance." The portrait is 60 1/2" x 43 1/4" and is signed on the reverse under a relined canvas: "Painted by Nelson Cook / Saratoga Springs / 1840."
Courtesy of Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, Vermont
b. Bozrah, CT, 26 Oct 1788, - d. Saratoga Springs, 27 Nov 1867; studied law under John Russell of Troy, NY; admitted to bar in 1809; opened law office in Plattsburgh in 1810, where he became a Master in Chancery; participated in War of 1812 as Adjutant General and as Division Judge Advocate; elected to US Congress, 1821-23; appointed 4th Circuit Judge by Gov. Yates, 1823; appointed (last New York) Chancellor 1828-1848; nominated 1844 for US Supreme Court by President Tyler, but, alienating Whig politico Thurlow Weed, was not confirmed; unsuccessful candidate for NY State Governor, 1848; President American Temperance Union [Walworth County, Wisconsin named to honor this work]; VP American Bible Society; LL.D.; advocate of conciliation and peace during Civil War; College of NJ [Princeton, 1835]; Yale ; Harvard ; married twice: Maria Ketchum Averill, 1812, and [Mrs.] Sarah Ellen Smith Hardin, April 16, 1851, in Harrodsburg, Kentucky [see Ellen Hardin Walworth]. Exhibited at National Academy of Art & Design, NYC, 1843, catalog #212. The Walworth family engaged the portrait services of Cook for some 18 years [see family members below].
Courtesy Historical Society of Saratoga Springs, acc # W-70-13
b. 31 Dec 1795, Plattsburgh, NY - d. 24 Apr 1847, Saratoga Springs, NY; eldest child of Nathan Averill, Jr., at one time in the transportation business and a Plattsburgh landowner, and Polly (Mary?) Ketchum Averill; first wife of Reuben Hyde Walworth, m. 16 Jan 1812 in Plattsburgh, NY; mother of six children. Portrait signed verso "Painted by Nelson Cook. Saratoga Springs. 1841"; this and the portrait of her husband are located in the Walworth Museum, The Canfield Casino, Saratoga.
Courtesy Historical Society of Saratoga Springs, acc # W-70-14
Described as a full length portrait of a one-time resident of Saratoga; she wears a blue silk dress with blonde lace at wrists and neck and is described as having a "determined and reflective expression"; in urging readers to visit Cook's studio, the commentator refers to the painting as an "exquisite work of Art" suggesting "the near approach of Art to Nature." Noted in the Saratoga Whig, 25 May 1841.
b. 7 March 1783, Caldwell, NY - d. 29 June 1857, Saratoga Springs, NY; buried in Rogers family plot, Moreau, NY; son of Thomas and Ruth Niles Rogers; circa 1800/1801 married Glens Falls, NY native Deborah Wing (1782 – 1856), who bore four children; in early 1830s part owner of a forge and sawmill near Au Sable Forks, NY; in time, along with two nephews, holdings in the village center included another forge, a general store, a boarding house, and laborers’ homes; Rogers brought in John Weed to help manage the extended operations, and legally adopted Weed in 1844 – all indications are that Weed was Halsey’s illegitimate son; eventually led to the very prosperous J&J Rogers Ironworks Company owned and managed by nephew James and adopted son John; active Democratic politician, who served in NY Assembly in 1837 and 1842; prominent Saratoga Springs judge. The portrait is signed on verso, “Painted by Nelson Cook – 1843” and is one of the artist’s rare full-length renderings [see Millard Powers Fillmore], today measuring 6’2” x 3.” According to the Frick Art Reference Library, the portrait was even larger when first painted, but “a foot or so” has been cut from both the height and width. In true Democrat fashion, the Judge’s right hand rests on a copy of the monthly journal, Democratic Review, which espoused Jacksonian democracy principles. The frontal pose, direct gaze, formal attire, skillful modeling, and deep background colors convey a sense of authority. Although only available in black and white, the Frick provides the following color description, with some noted elements now cut from the original canvas: “Brown eyes, gray hair. Black suit, gold watch key hanging at table with gray marble top veined with white. Black shoes. Dark brown curtains at the left and right. Dark grayish blue background between the curtains. Tan carpet decorated with figures in brown and green, red roses, smaller red flowers, and large blue flowers.
Noted by the Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS) as having been sold at auction by C. G. Sloan & Co. Further research five years later in support of the Nelson Cook web site yielded an undated Cook painting entitled Father and Child, which is shown below. This charming portrait was auctioned by Christie's for $4,600 in New York on 16 June 1999. It is oil on canvas and measures 43X37. While it is difficult to ascertain if this is the same 1843 painting cited by the Smithsonian, its style and facial features are extremely reminiscent of the artist's 1840 portraits of James Merrill Cook and Anna Cady Cook leading one to believe that if this is not the same painting, it was at least painted at about the same time or perhaps several years earlier.
b. ? - d. 1874; buried in a place of honor at the Church of Mart Maryam in Urmia, Persia; a Nestorian Christian Bishop of Urmia; first to welcome Justin Perkins, a Presbyterian missionary in Persia 1834-1869; taught Perkins and colleagues the Assyrian culture, language, & religious beliefs and provided unwavering support to the missionaries for many years; key legacy was establishing schools in Persia; visited the US 1843 with Perkins. In all likelihood Mar Yohannan actually sat for his portrait in Saratoga Springs, which the Bishop is known to have visited during his US stay. According to a passage in William Stone's Reminiscences of Saratoga and Ballston: "[Chancellor Reuben Hyde Walworth's Pine Grove home in Saratoga Springs] has known the portly form of Joseph Bonaparte in tights, and the squat figure of Mar Yohannan in multitudinous folds of cloth." In fact, Cook painted two portraits of the Bishop - the 25x30 original was said to have been in Saratoga as late as 1885, and a duplicate accompanied Mar Yohannan back to Persia.
This portrait of an unknown woman may be the same 1843 portrait the Historical Society of Saratoga Springs once noted as "Portrait of a Lady." However, to say so would only be speculative in the absence of any other available information related to both paintings. But what we do know with absolute certainty is that the below portrait was sold at auction by Leland Little of Hillsborough, NC on July 15, 2021 with a hammer price of $700 US ($875US including the 25% buyer premium). According to the auction house, the 33 1/2" x 28 3/4" portrait is a lined, oil on canvas oval in a period giltwood frame which is signed, inscribed, and dated on the reverse. Further, Leland Little noted the "painting has been restored: repaired tear at right and puncture at center with associated retouch; canvas restretched; some light craquelure; expected age to frame." The portrait came to auction from the collection of Clifford and Patricia Chieffo from Cary, NC. Nearly one year after acquiring the portrait, the owner donated the painting to the Saratoga Springs History Museum, where it could be viewed more broadly by the public.
This portrait surfaced from a Saratoga Springs institution, which opted to discontinue the use of antiques as part of its decor. When sold in July 2008 by Cherry Tree Auctions for $550, the auctioneer attributed the portrait to Nelson Cook, who may very well have been the artist. However, the painting's front inscription reads "Painted by Cook 1843" (see bottom right) using a handwriting style and serpentine shape that is uncharacteristic of Cook's normal, more embellished signature, which also usually included his first name or the letter "N." for Nelson. It's conceivable the original inscription on the reverse was lost during restoration at some point and the conservator simply added Cook's name and date to the painting's front. Unlike Cook's darker images of adult sitters from the early 1840s, this painting makes use of brighter, pastel-like colors, which may have been Cook's way of conveying a child's sense of carefree innocence. But perhaps most telling as to whether or not this is truly a Cook, if you look very closely at the painting's lower right corner, you can see the faint hint of Cook's trademark red chair. Interestingly, this painting is reminiscent of his later portraits of the Walworth family children [see The Walworth Children (1858)]. Could this be yet another Walworth child painted soon after Chancellor and Mrs. Walworth's 1841 portraits?
This quaint double portrait presumably depicts a sister and her brother. The painting measures 32" X 42" and has been relined during restoration. There is a label glued to the back of the portrait with a handwritten signature in Cook's hand reading, "Painted by N. Cook. Saratoga Springs, N.Y." Although the portrait is undated, it is reminiscent of Cook's work in Saratoga Springs during the early 1840s and echoes many of the same characteristics depicted in the artist's Gentleman and Child from 1843. This is especially true of the tubular, opaque arms of the sister and the infant child seated on her father's lap. Additionally, the mountainous landscape shown just behind the sister's right elbow is nearly identical to the landscape seen out the window of Cook's undated Portrait of a Girl, who the artist has rendered with the same sausage-like arms. The portrait is in what appears to be a period frame, which has some severe condition issues. The painting was auctioned by Freeman's in Philadelphia, PA on November 13, 2013, but the portrait's top bid did not meet the consignor's reserve price. However, two weeks later the painting was purchased for $5,625, including a 25% commission. All indications are this is a record price for a Cook portrait.
The first of two portraits of this noted jurist attributed to Cook; this one is signed, right below center; painted at Saratoga Springs. This portrait is displayed as one of dozens of prominent NY jurists in the strikingly handsome, paneled, Appeals courtroom; the portraits are of generally uniform sizes and framed by the paneling. Building records note that the painting was reduced somewhat, perhaps to make it the proper size; the artist's name verso was cut to "N. O." say the records, although it is probable that the "C" in Cook was misread. Trimming the canvas might explain why this Cowen version lacks the breadth of background, including law books, found in the posthumous (?) copy (?) of 1847 held by the Connecticut Historical Society.
b. 8 Oct 1768, New York City - d. 15 Sep 1844, New York City; born into a prominent colonial family, Walton was schooled in England, returning to New York for legal training, initially with Aaron Burr; moved to Ballston (Nelson Cook's hometown) in 1790 and became the county surrogate (1794-1808); moved between Albany and New York, but returned to Saratoga Springs ca 1820 and built a large home, "Wood Lawn," on a huge inherited tract of land; he practiced law, became one of the incorporators (1831) of the Saratoga & Schenectady Railroad Co. (directed to lay track through Ballston Spa), and excavated and "tubed" a number of the mineral springs for which Saratoga is known; active in the Episcopal Church, "Judge Walton" was buried in the family vault in Trinity Church yard, New York, apparently passing away soon after his portrait. Exhibited at National Academy of Art & Design, NYC, 1844, catalog #109.
b. ca 1795 - d. 28 May 1881?, Saratoga Springs; apparently painted twice by his younger brother, Nelson. Known as a craftsman, inventor, and prison warden; came (from nearby Ballston?) to Saratoga Springs, then "mostly a piney grove," in 1813 as a journeyman furniture maker and over the years opened several shops in town where he made chairs, bedsteads, etc., often stenciled; served as town trustee for several years (1830s); said by the Chronicles of Saratoga to have made 21 significant inventions; worked with Thomas Davenport, inventor of an "electric motor;" commissioned by the State (1842) to survey mineral wealth in northern NY, and as a result recommended prison site in Clinton County (Dannemora) where prisoners could offset their cost by mining and manufacturing iron; appointed first warden (ca 1845-48), Cook built the prison with convict labor, utilized some of his own industrial inventions, and established Dannemora's industrial base; despite using electric shocks on disobedient convicts, Cook established a reputation as a reforming warden who removed shackles from prisoners and insisted they be treated kindly; alas, the ore ran out and the prison became a costly burden for the State; married daughter of Robert Ayres, associated with notorious Jane McCrea murder during Revolution; buried in Greenridge Cemetery, Saratoga, where he designed the unique, seashell-shaped family gravestone [see photo in the Nelson Cook Biography]. Portraits noted by the Historical Society of Saratoga Springs. The 1844 portrait was exhibited at the National Academy of Art & Design, NYC, in that year, cat # 336.
This portrait came to light by way of a brief mention in Samuel Chamberlain's 1950 book "Salem [MA] Interiors: Two Centuries of New England Taste and Decoration," which contains a photograph of the 1781 Sanderson House dining room with a portrait identified as that of "Nancy Putnam" by Nelson Cook hung above the sideboard. May be Mrs. Ferdinand/Frederick (Nancy Putnam) Andrews, who had ties to both Saratoga Springs and Salem; b. ca. 1797 in Saratoga Springs - d. 10 Jan 1869 in Saratoga Springs; buried Green Ridge Cemetery, Saratoga Springs; daughter of Gideon Putnam (1764-1812) and Doanda Risley (1766-1835), originally of the Salem, Mass area and among the first developers of Saratoga Springs upon their 1789 arrival. Gideon was a successful landowner and lumberman, who also built the Union Hall Hotel, the Congress Hall Hotel, and "tubed" several popular springs for public use; in 1814 Nancy married grocer Ferdinand (sometimes Frederick) Andrews (ca. 1794 - ?) and she bore 4 children from ca. 1818 to ca. 1821; Nancy and the children continually appear in Saratoga Springs census records through 1860, but Ferdinand is absent after 1820; in early 1823 a "Ferdinand Andrews" takes over publication of the Salem Gazette and remains active in Massachusetts newspaper & book publishing until at least 1852; it is not known if this is the husband of Nancy Putnam and, if so, what their domestic arrangement might have been.
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