Esteria Butler (American, 1814-1891)
Pair of Portrait Miniatures of the Artist's Sister and Brother-in-Law, Almira and James B. Fillebrown, at the Time of their Marriage. Both portraits signed, dated, and the subjects identified on the reverse, the woman's portrait is inscribed "Almira Butler Fillebrown/Painted by Esteria Butler1832/Aged 18/Winthrop, Maine"; the gentleman's portrait is similarly inscribed with the exception of his name, (both are aged 18). Watercolor on ivory, 3 x 2 1/2 in., mounted together in a hinged thermoplastic case. Condition: The ivory plaque the gentleman is painted on is bowed on right and left sides.
Literature: According to a privately printed 1908 genealogy The Family of Rev. John Butler, by Charles Bowdoin Fillebrown, the artist Esteria Butler, and the female subject portrayed, Almira Butler Fillebrown, were two of fourteen children of the Rev. John Butler (1789-1856) and his wife Nancy (nee Payne, 1788-1857). The Reverend was the first ordained pastor at the Baptist church in Hanover, Massachusetts, in 1810, and served there until 1824, when the family moved to Waterville, Maine, where Reverend Butler was installed as the first pastor at the Baptist church at East Winthrop, Maine, in 1825. It was there that he established a school for young ladies. The Butler daughters attended the school, and Esteria excelled in painting on ivory. She painted portrait miniatures of herself and most of the members of her family, many of them portrayed in the book, including the pair offered here.
On August 15, 1837, Esteria married Professor Jonathan Everett Farnam, LL.D., in Waterville, Maine, where he was a tutor at Waterville (later Colby) College. In 1839 he became a member of the faculty of Georgetown College, Georgetown, Kentucky, where some years later he established a seminary for young ladies. Esteria shared with her husband the charge over the young ladies, teaching drawing and painting. The couple had three daughters. Esteria died December 23, 1891, at the age of 77 and was buried at Georgetown.
Exerpt about the women's seminary from "Reminiscences of East Winthrop" described by William Harrison Parlin "There came with him [Reverend Butler] a Miss Elizabeth Lewis, a celebrated school teacher. Together they established a school for young ladies, in which were taught the higher English branches, astronomy, painting, etc. This school, or Female Seminary, or 'Butler's School' as it was familiarly called, became exceedingly popular, so much so that from all parts of the State young ladies of wealth and refinement attended. The school was very large, the scholars filling every house that could, or would, accommodate boarders, and, during term time, causing the inhabitants of the village to be composed, apparently, mostly of females. They were the ruling element and gave tone to society..."
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