A beautifully rendered watercolor and pencil portrait of a woman done by Jane Anthony Davis, more commonly known as J.A. Davis. The sitter, as was usual with Davis' portraits, is dressed in black, with color being reserved for decorative objects, such as books, flowers, or jewelry, as in this case. What is highly unusual is that Davis signed very few of her works, and on this piece, on the cardboard insert behind the painting, is written "Caroline Mathilda Brown Wife of Nicholas Brown". Beneath that, in a different hand, in pencil almost too faint to be seen, are initials, the first two of which are a J and an A. The third initial is too difficult to decipher. However, since this work is by Davis, while it cannot be stated with absolute certainty, it is hard to reach any other conclusion than that these are her initials, signed by her.
The painting is in excellent condition, with no tears or creases, and strong colors. The period brass over wood frame appears to be original. Sight size of this wonderful example of American folk art is 4 1/4 inches by 3 3/4 inches, while the framed size is 5 1/4 inches by 4 1/2 inches.
Note 1: J.A. Davis (1821-1855) attended school at the Warren Ladies' seminary in Rhode Island and spent most of her life in RI and Norwich, CT. Although her work has been of active interest to collectors and academicians for over 100 years, it is only in the last 20 that it was realized she was a woman. She did only about 150 works in her entire lifetime, very few of which have been known to be signed in any way.
Note 2: Nicholas Brown, born in Providence, RI, was an American manufacturer and philanthropist. He graduated Rhode Island College, which in 1804, because of his donations, was renamed Brown University after him.