Portraits & Paintings
Today images are taken for granted. However, in the 1850s when Belmont Mansion was occupied by Adelicia Acklen and her family the color printing press was still years away, and the camera was new, experimental, and primitive. Printing presses could only reproduce an image after a craftsman had turned that image into a stone or steel etching or engraving. To a person of the nineteenth century, the copy was a work of art and very important. An artist had to sit in front of the original piece being copied and repaint it in order for a person to obtain a copy. Faithfulness to the original painting was important for these highly skilled craftsmen. The teaching of this craft was emphasized at major Italian art academies until the fourth quarter of the nineteenth century. The best copyist could only copy about twelve to fourteen complete paintings a year. Therefore, a month’s salary went into each painting. Also, the copy artist would often have to pay a sitting fee to the gallery or the owner of the work being copied, making the better copies more expensive. There were often long waiting lists for copyists to reproduce the more popular paintings.
Americans placed a great deal of importance on copies of paintings they called “Old Masters”, the Italian and Spanish artists of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and (to a lesser extent) eighteenth centuries. Most Americans never went to Europe and never saw these important paintings. At best they may have seen one or two black and white engravings of the paintings in a book, so to see the copies was the closest they would come to seeing the originals. Thus these copies while to our 21st century minds may seem like lesser imitations of art they were in fact prized possessions to 19th century families like the Acklens.
The Adelicia Acklen Art Collection: Family Portraits
Adelicia Acklen collected art throughout her life; it was a passion for her and her second husband, Joseph A. S. Acklen, and continued to be a pursuit after his death. The 1887 estate inventory made upon her death documented the artwork in her possession. At that time, many of the items in Belmont Mansion were sold while many were inherited by her children and remained in the family. In the years since Belmont Mansion opened as a museum, the staff and Board of Directors have worked to restore the artwork to the home. Below is a list of the family portraits and paintings that have been identified by name through research.
**Indicates the portrait is at Belmont while *indicates the painting is in a private collection.
The Acklen Family by Robert Gschwindt, painted in New Orleans in 1857. Gschwindt was active in New Orleans 1854-1867. Painting originally hung in the Central Parlor.
Adelicia Acklen in Paris, artist unknown. Portrait was painted in 1866 or 1867.
Adelicia Acklen with Black Lace by Washington Cooper, Tennessee 1811-1900. The portrait was possibly located in Joseph H. Acklen’s bedroom.
Adelicia Franklin in White Dress* by Washington Cooper, Tennessee 1811-1900.
Adelicia Franklin and Emma Franklin by Joseph Henry Brush, Kentucky ca. 1800-1865. Brush painted before 1855. Portrait hung in the Front Hall.
Adelicia Equestrian Portrait with Bucephalus ** by William Cooper, Tennessee 1811-1900. The portrait was painted in the 1850s.
Claude Acklen* by Washington Cooper, Tennessee 1811-1900.
Elizabeth Hunt Acklen**, attributed to William Fry, Huntsville, Alabama, 1822-1872. This portrait is of Joseph A.S. Acklen’s mother who was from Huntsville, Alabama and hung in Joseph H. Acklen’s bedroom.
Emma Franklin* by Washington Cooper, Tennessee 1811-1900. In this full-length portrait of Emma as a young girl she is standing, holding a parasol with a white puppy at her feet and hung in the large bedroom of Belmont Mansion.
Emma Franklin in the Child’s Dream by Robert Gschwindt. Gschwindt was active in New Orleans 1854-1867. This portrait is described as, “A child is dreaming; an angel with a hand in hers is beckoning her toward Heaven with the other hand.” The child is Emma Franklin, who died in 1855 at the age of 11. The portrait hung in the library.
Franklin Children** by Washington Cooper, Tennessee 1811-1900. The portrait hung in Adelicia’s bedroom.
Isaac Franklin** by Washington Cooper, Tennessee 1811-1900.
Isaac Franklin** by Ralph E.W. Earl, Tennessee 1785(?) – 1838.
Isaac Franklin and Family, artist unknown. This painting is only documented through family tradition.
Joel Hayes, artist unknown. Hayes was Adelicia’s paternal grandfather.
Joseph A.S. Acklen, possibly by Joseph Henry Brush, Kentucky ca. 1800-1865. This life-size portrait hung in the Front Hall.
Joseph A.S. Acklen** by Washington Cooper, Tennessee 1811-1900. In this portrait Colonel Acklen is wearing a tartan sash. It is believed the portrait hung in Joseph H. Acklen’s bedroom.
Mary Bliss Hayes, artist unknown. Hayes was Adelicia Acklen’s paternal grandmother.
Oliver Bliss Hayes** by Washington Cooper, Tennessee 1811-1900. Hayes was Adelicia Acklen’s father.
Pauline Acklen* by Washington Cooper, Tennessee 1811-1900. Portrait hung in the Tête-à-Tête room.
Richard Hayes, artist unknown. Hayes was Adelicia Acklen’s brother who died from wounds sustained in a duel with William Polk, the brother of President James K. Polk.
Sarah Hightower Hayes** by Washington Cooper, Tennessee 1811-1900. Hayes was Adelicia Acklen’s mother.
The Twins: Their Resurrection by Robert Gschwindt, active in New Orleans 1854-1867. This portrait measured five by seven feet and was described as Adelicia Acklen’s twins, Corrine and Laura, ascending into heaven and hung in the Central Parlor.
Victoria Franklin** by Washington Cooper, Tennessee 1811-1900. Cooper’s journal recorded payment of $60.00 for a portrait of a child for Mr. Franklin on September 26, 1840. The painting possibly hung in Adelicia Acklen’s bedroom.
Victoria and Adelicia Franklin by Washington Cooper, Tennessee 1811-1900. Victoria and Adelicia were two of the four Franklin children.
William A. Cheatham by George Drury, Nashville 1817-1894. Dr. Cheatham was Adelicia Acklen’s third husband.
The Adelicia Acklen Art Collection: Paintings
Agriculture, artist unknown. This painting is described as a “cartoon” which is usually a drawing or wash that is a study for a painting, fresco, or tapestry. Originally located in one of the second-floor bedrooms.
Americus Vespucci*, after Parmigianino, Italian 1503-1540. This is a portrait of the man for whom America was named and a companion painting to a portrait of Christopher Columbus. Originally located in one of the second-floor bedrooms.
Aurora, after Guido Reni, Italian 1575-1642. This is most likely a painting of the fresco in Rome at the Palazzo Pallavicini, which was the most popular image of Aurora in the 19th century. Aurora was the Roman goddess of the dawn.