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Chippenhook Family GroupOil on canvas, c. 1840
Attributed to Aaron Dean Fletcher

Unfortunately the identity of this family is unknown. The portraits were found in the Chippenhook section of Clarendon and the family was probably from that area. The details in the portraits provide some information about the sitters. All of the family members are dressed and coiffed in a stylish yet restrained manner. The older man is holding a Rutland Herald indicating that he was literate and reinforcing his Vermont connection. If you look carefully to the left of his shoulder you will see a drawing compass and square, indicating that he was a Mason. This would have been a strong political statement during a time when the majority of Vermonters viewed Masonic membership as undemocratic. The woman is wearing some gold jewelry fashionable for the time and appears to be holding a small book, probably of psalms. The younger man has a key hanging around his neck, which may be from the Phi Beta Kappa educational honor society. The gender of the child cannot be determined from the portrait because both boys and girls wore these dresses when infants. Imagine the impression a visitor would have had upon walking into this family's house and seeing these portraits.

Aaron Dean Fletcher (1817-1902) was born in Springfield, Vermont. He was self-taught and began his career in the Springfield area painting neighbors and friends from 1835 to 1839. By 1840 he had moved to Keeseville, New York. The Chippenhook portraits may have been painted by Fletcher on his way to New York. They have his characteristic olive background and black outlining of figures. Like many itinerant artists of the time Fletcher traveled west to Indiana in 1856, but returned after a year to New York, where he continued to earn a meager living as an artist. He died in Keeseville in 1902.