Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ezra Ames

Ezra Ames (1768–1836) was a rather noted and prolific portrait painter active mostly in the beginning of the 19th century in Albany, NY. He was not originally a so-called fine artist (His early painting works involved signs, carriages and furniture, probably gilding and lettering.) but he did become one. At some point, he probably figured out that there was a good market for portrait painting and took it on. It is said that portraitist Gilbert Stuart was his inspiration. His most famous portrait is probably the one of once New York State Governor, George Clinton. Another notable Ames' work is a multi-figured portrait of the Fondey family.


The Fondey family, Ezra Ames, 1803.

He wouldn't be featured in this blog unless there was a connection with Framingham. Well, there is one, a quite obvious one. He was born in Framingham. His parents were Jesse Eames (Why is Ezra Ames not known as Ezra Eames is a bit puzzling.) and Bette Bent (1743-1776). Eames is of course a very famous name in Framingham, especially in South Framingham. Ezra's dad, Jesse Eames (1739-1829), was a dentist right here in Framingham but also a captain in the Army (during the revolutionary war). Jesse remarried in 1777 in Sturbridge, MA to a Dorothy Brown of Sturbridge. He had six kids with Bette and another three with Dorothy. At some point (not sure when but definitely after 1790, they year of the census), he moved to Staatsburg, NY. For the record, Jesse's parents were Henry Eames and Ruth Newton while Bette's parents were John Bent and Elizabeth Reed.

In 1790, Ezra Ames was living in Worcester, MA. In 1793, he settled in Albany, NY, and really made a huge name for himself in portrait painting. He started doing conventional oil portraits in 1792 but was actively painting miniature portraits (miniatures) before that.

Now, a good question to ask is where the young Ezra lived in Framingham. Well, I have no idea quite yet but a good guess would be the famous Eames red house, which started its life in 1721. Let's examine this a bit further since I did write about the house (some time ago though). The Eames red house was built by Henry Eames, grand-son of Thomas Eames whose family was massacred during King Philip's war and father of Jesse Eames, Ezra's very own dad. It looks like the house went to Henry Eames (1725-1772), Jesse's older brother, so I doubt Jesse Eames and Bette Bent lived there. Thanks to [EAMES] Cpt. Jesse Eames of Dutchess County NY 1829 which shows the lineage of Captain Jesse Eames, one learns that Bette Eames, the first child of Jesse and Dorothy (nice to see she was named after his first wife), was born on 12 Oct 1778 in East Sudbury, MA (now, Wayland). We also know from other sources that Bette Bent, Jesse's first wife, died in 1776, but the important thing is that she died in Framingham. I am no Sherlock Holmes but it's relatively safe to say that Ezra Ames lived in Framingham from his birth to his mom's death, that is, from 1768 to 1776. Once Jesse married again, the family moved to Wayland, MA. If you, faithful reader, have an idea where Ezra lived in Framingham, give me a sign because I'd like to know.