"Queen Blanche Releasing the Captives," a painting in watercolor on silk with embroidered gold decoration, by Eliza Bellows of Walpole, New Hampshire, circa 1817.
The works of two other girls from Walpole were made at Misses Pattens' School in Hartford, Connecticut in the first decades of the nineteenth century. One of those students was Eliza's sister Louisa. Louisa married William G. Field in 1816, and he was the preceptor of the Walpole Academy in 1825. Stylistically Eliza's work is done in the manner of the Misses Pattens' School, although it is possible that whe was a pupil of her older sister, who may have taught painting and needlework, in Walpole.
Both for its choice of subject matter and for the quality of its workmanship, this is a particularly wonderful example of this schoolgirl art form. Its subject, Queen Blanche of Castile (1188-1252), became the queen consort of France as the wife of Louis VIII, and she was twice regent for her son Louis IX during his reign. She is remembered and held in esteem as an example of strong ethical character for, among other actions, the scene portrayed in this work. It was described by Margaret Labarge in her book "A Midieval Miscellany", as following Blanche's presiding over a dispute in the king's court, in a time of increasing anti-Semitism in France, during which she promised Rabbi Rehiel, who spoke for the Jews of Paris that he and his goods were safely under her protection. In the painting by Eliza, Blanche oversees the release of the captive Jews.
The royal guards wear costumes embroidered in gold thread and sequins. Also the perimeter of the scenic panel is embroidered in silver thread. The rest of the picture is superbly painted in watercolor on silk and framed behind an eglomise glass inscribed with the name of the scene and the name of its artist and her age. The surrounding floral garland with entwined cornucopia at its base, the town painted to the right in the scene background, and the placement of the foreground building and trees on either side of the central figures, mirror compositional devices seen in Pattens' School work.
Sight dimensions are 25 1/2 x 25 1/2, and original gilded frame with rope twist decoration is 29 1/2 x 29 1/2 inches.