It’s a festive time at The House of the Seven Gables in Salem as it gears up to celebrate the holiday season in a truly artistic manner. The season’s highlight is the unveiling of a beautifully conserved masterpiece, “Flight Into Egypt,” by the talented Sophia Peabody, painted a few years before her marriage to the renowned Nathaniel Hawthorne.
The big reveal is scheduled for December 2nd at 4 p.m. and promises to be a memorable event. The House of the Seven Gables is hosting a reception, followed by an enlightening talk and the much-awaited unveiling of the painting in its new home – the parlor. This event is open to everyone, though you’ll need to register in advance on their website at 7gables.org.
Sophia Peabody’s “Flight Into Egypt” is not just an ordinary painting. It’s a rare gem that showcases the exceptional talent of one of America’s first female commercial artists. The painting’s restoration highlights Sophia’s artistic prowess and brings her story to the forefront, acknowledging her contributions, which Hawthorne’s fame has long overshadowed.
Dakota Russell, the Executive Director of The Gables, expressed immense gratitude for the support that made the conservation of this artwork possible. He emphasized the importance of bringing Sophia’s achievements into the spotlight, especially in a place as historically significant as The House of the Seven Gables.
Susan Baker, the collections manager at The Gables, shed light on the rarity of Sophia’s paintings, with only about nine still known to exist. Sophia was mentored by some of the leading painters of her time, a rare privilege for a woman in that era. Her artistic legacy remains influential despite her marriage to Hawthorne in 1842, which shifted her priorities.
“Flight Into Egypt” is not just a painting; it’s a story painted on canvas. Created around 1834, it depicts the biblical journey of Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus into Egypt. The tranquil yet lush scene is filled with evocative details – cows grazing, a man playing the lute, a river in the background, and an angel guiding the holy family to safety. The conservation process, led by Theresa Carmichael, who dedicated 150 hours to the task, brought these details to life, revealing Sophia’s mastery and playfulness in her art.
The journey of the painting itself has been remarkable. It arrived damaged, showing signs of age, water damage, and previous unsuccessful repairs. The transformation it underwent is a testament to the skill and dedication of the conservators.
The acquisition story of “Flight Into Egypt” by Sophia Peabody by The Gables is intriguing, with most authorities believing that Caroline Emmerton, who transformed the Turner-Ingersoll Mansion into a museum, played a pivotal role in bringing the painting to its current home. The restoration, made possible by the Wyeth Foundation for American Art and a Gables fundraising campaign for a period-appropriate frame, has revived this stunning piece.
As we celebrate this remarkable piece of art and its restoration, it’s important to remember the broader mission of The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association. They strive to be a welcoming and historic site that engages people from all backgrounds in our shared American story.