This charming 19th C theorem on paper is set apart from other theorem paintings by virtue of its being signed. Often created by school girls, you can see Esther Sackett’s pencil signature at the lower right in the detail photograph of the corner frame, faint but still visible. Theorems are almost always anonymous, it is rare to find an antique theorem with a signature; and paper theorems are scarcer and generally more highly valued than their velvet counterparts.

This lovely piece depicts a fanciful flower pot filled with roses, moss rose buds, and some sort of yellow flowers I cannot identify - possibly a type of carnation as they have serrated petal edges. The flowers radiating outward, and the jagged outline of the pot lend a vibrant edgy quality to this otherwise very proper piece of American Folk Art.

Theorem painting is the technique of using layered stencils to create more complicated images, and was popularized in the US around 1800. After the American Revolution the US economy began to change from a rural based model to one that was more urban centered and prosperous. Along with this economic development came a shift toward cultural refinement with a great hunger for art and the trappings of a more gracious lifestyle. Many young women, like Esther Sackett, now had time free from household chores, allowing them to study theorem painting in the many new academies and seminaries that opened to instruct women in the social arts such as embroidery and hostessing. Theorem painting caught on because of its relative ease as compared to embroidery, and it remained a popular art form until around 1840 when it was supplanted by the newer technique of Tinsel Painting.

CONDITION is very good antique. The paper shows some expected foxing and toning from the old backing which has now been replaced with archival material. The piece is housed in an antique lemon gold frame with a beautiful patina - on these old lemon gold frames the normal wear of 200 years or so is generally considered desirable and adds to the antique charm. Old frames like this are highly valued, often for more than the art they contain. The frame is possibly original to the theorem, I’m not certain. The glass is new. Measures 12” x 10 ⅛” overall, with a sight size of 10” x 8 ⅛”. Weighs 1 lb. 1.5 oz. as framed.

Esther Sackett’s delightful antique theorem would be a great addition to any country decor whether in an urban apartment or an antique colonial in New England. Enjoy!

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Oh Art and Antiques LLC

Antique Theorem Painting on Paper in Period Lemon Gold Frame - Signed in Pencil - School Girl Painting - Folk Art


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