Sarah Orne Jewett House

Portrait of Mary

Mary Rice Jewett, Helen Bigelow Merriman (1844-1933), pastel, c. 1900

In a speech read before the Worcester Art Society in 1891, the painter of Mary Jewett’s portrait, Helen Bigelow Merriman, explained how the best portraits are created.

It is most essential . . . [that] a pose should be decided on that is at once noble and characteristic, that an attitude should be found in which the sitter feels natural, and yet one which has some dignity and outlook.

Here, Mary is captured with a slight smile that suggests her essential character was that of a contented and centered woman. The artist was a close friend of the Jewetts and would have understood exactly the type of woman Mary was.

We know how important Mary was in Sarah’s life. This portrait hung over the desk in their nephew’s office, suggesting how important she was to him as well.