A Virginia Wedding
Edward Lamson Henry, or E. L. Henry (as he signed his paintings), was a "cousin-in-law" of Grace Livingston Hill and a noted American artist. Among other Henry works, "A Virginia Wedding" was included as an illustration for the book "Marcia Schuyler".
Henry had a large collection of period costumes and carriages, and loved to include his friends and neighbors among the characters in his paintings. This particular work is an intersting example.
In "The Life and Work of Edward Lamson Henry, N.A. 1841-1919", Elizabeth McCauslin writes that "the occasion of this painting was the marriage of Elizabeth Otis Woodruff to Edward Carroll of Charleston in the 1880's. The horses were painted from the gray team of Doctor Woodruff of Pine Bush, N. Y., Jennie being on the left and Major on the right."
Frances Livingston Henry shares more of the background story:
One Sunday morning just as we were starting for church, he [Henry] suddenly said, "Please go on, I will join you in a moment." There was a "faraway" look in his eyes, as if things present were forgotten. So I left him and went to church. Service ended, and he had not come. I hurried home wondering what had happened. I found him perfectly absorbed in a drawing. As I entered, he looked up in surprise, saying, "What is the matter? I am coming right away. Don't wait." I told him church was all over. "Why," he said, "you only just went out." The hours had passed for him only as moments, and he had drawn in his noted painting, "A Virginia Wedding".
Of course, this painting is purely imaginery. The building is drawn from the beautiful southern mansions of the large estates or plantations of Virginia. In his own collection he had the costumes both of men and women of that date, also the stately coach of the same period. The bride, bidding her mother goodby, wears a dress of white satin [made with] plain waist and large puffed sleeves. The small, close hat, slippers of white satin, etc. [are of the period]. The groom, bidding the father goodby, has over his arm a silk shawl of brilliant colors brought from China by one of my own ancestors.
As a general thing Mr. Henry used only the regular professional model for detail in costumes and poses, but found the character he would need in people around him. In his own quaint way, he would ask any one he saw who happened to represent just the person he wanted in the picture he was at work upon if they would not let him make a little drawing of them [as] he would like to put them in the painting. They might be very much astonished and often were, but I cannot remember that he was ever refused.
In this painting Dr. Howard Crosby, our pastor and very dear friend coming to call one day, was chosen as the clergyman and is seen standing in the door. It was such a good likeness of him that at the time of his daughter Agnes' wedding, the picture was etched on white satin and presented to her as a wedding present.
The same, only different?
E. L. Henry quite often painted more than one version of a particular scene or subject.
A very similar painting is sometimes confused with "A Virginia Wedding". Known as "A Wedding in the Thirties", many of the characters are identical.
The background flora and fauna are different, as well as the carriage, driver, and team. However, the bride and groom appear to be the same, right down to the colored silk shawl. The guests also make another appearance, mostly in the same clothing and the same positions. McCauslin mentions a watercolor by this title which was sold for $65 at the sale of the Frederick Halsey Collection at the Anderson Art Galleries in 1916, so perhaps Henry decided to paint the same subject in a different medium. Know more about it? Email us.