George Peter Alexander Healy
American, 1813 ‑ 1894
Portrait of Sallie Ward (1827 ‑ 1896), 1860
Oil on canvas
53 15/16 × 40 1/4 in. (137 × 102.2 cm.)
Gift of Mrs. John W. Hunt and Mrs. Ruth Hunt Hillson
Painting and frame conservation by Edith and Jacob Horn, The Horn Foundation  1939.96

A Kentucky “It Girl”
Mrs. Sallie Ward Lawrence Hunt Armstrong Downs was a true southern belle in every sense of the word. The daughter of a wealthy Kentucky politician, she grew up in Louisville. Many people admired her grace and beauty, but others thought her to be childish, spoiled, and something of a prankster. She was known throughout the South for her lavish parties and her trademark lavender carriage. Sallie was married four times. While her first marriage ended in divorce after only a few months, other marriages proved successful, as she found spouses who appreciated her exuberant personality. Her last years were spent at Louisville’s Galt House, where she died in 1896. Sallie is age 33 in this portrait. Given some of the facts of her life, do you think the artist accurately captured her charm and charisma? A portrait can be used in many ways: it can establish a social position or restore a reputation; it can reveal an inner state of mind or how we wish others to see us. Think about how you would like to be represented in a portrait. What part of your personality would you allow to be captured?