From the death of George Washington to the end of the Civil War, mourning has been an intriguing part of American culture. On Thursday, Oct. 25, at 6:30pm, Alex Dubois of the Litchfield Historical Society will be the featured speaker at a “Museum After Dark” program at the Fairfield Museum, 370 Beach Road. Dubois will present the tangible and intangible manifestations of loss in 19th century America, a time when mourning was both a personal means of grieving and a social expectation. Using examples from Litchfield, Fairfield, and other Connecticut towns, he will explore the history of mourning, with a focus on the objects and artwork created by Americans as part of the mourning process. Dubois discusses watercolor-on-silk memorial pictures painted by the young women of the Litchfield Female Academy, including three memorials painted by students from Fairfield.

Two of these paintings are featured in the Litchfield Historical Society’s exhibition “To Weep with Those Who Weep: Mourning Practices in Litchfield,” including one on loan from the Fairfield Museum and History Center. The event opens with a reception at 6pm and is open to the public. Fairfield Museum members are free, and there is a $5 suggested donation for non-members.

The image shown here is “Silk Mourning Piece” by Sarah Turney (1799 - 1868), a watercolor on silk, which is part of the Fairfield Museum Collections, and a gift of Richard Trubee Staples. The scene depicts four memorial stones with obelisk-type tops and seven figures in mourning arranged in three groups, as well as two sheep, many trees, and a background with a house near a harbor.

\The ships in the harbor are flying the American flag; beyond the harbor is a village. The inscriptions on the gravestones commemorate Sarah Turney’s three grandparents and a brother: her brother Stephen Turney died Oct. 14, 1787 at age 1; her grandmother Hannah Staples died June 24 1801 at age 61; her grandfather Stephen Turney died Jan. 24, 1786, age 69; and her grandmother Sarah Turney died June 4, 1768, age about 56. The glass and frame are original, it appears; the varnished wood frame has a gilded inner border.

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