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Adelicia Acklen in Black Shawl

Artist: Attributed to Washington B. Cooper, Nashville, Tennessee (1802-1888)
Year: c. 1855
Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: Height - 35", Width - 27.25"
1994.03.01 EL On loan from the Noel family

This portrait of Adelicia Hayes Franklin Acklen painted around 1855 is attributed to Washington Bogart Cooper. In this image, Adelicia is seated in a grey formal dress with a fitted bodice, a low ruched neckline, and her arms are covered with a black Chantilly lace shawl. The appearance of dark lace over light fabric was a popular look of the period, and was commonly used on parasols and fans as well. [1]Adelicia’s hairstyle, a rendition of the “Jenny Lind”, is also trendy for the time. Hairstyles of the antebellum period were intended to emphasize an elongated upper body, creating a wide bare forehead making the face appear broad while creating no height on top.[2] Adelicia’s tight face and delicately crossed hands are indicative of the strict code of conduct Victorian women were obligated to abide by. This image fully encompasses the expectations of a traditional Victorian housewife in that they are to be seen and not heard. Submissiveness and obedience were demanded of all women, but financial independence such as Adelicia’s was few and far between among women of the mid-nineteenth century.

[1] Leisch, J. (1995). Who wore what? Women’s Wear: 1861-1865, p. 77. Thomas Publications.
[2] Volo, J. and Volo, D. (2004). American Popular culture Through History The Antebellum Period. Greenwood Press.

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