The magnificent full-length portrait of Jane Storrs Cooper Worthington (1843-63) was commissioned by her husband, John Worthington, in 1865. Painted by German artist Carl Ludwig Brandt, the portrait shows “Jenny” standing on the rocks at Newport, Rhode Island with the sea roaring behind her. Its large scale (102” tall X 76” wide) is appropriate for display in the kind of huge space such as one finds in the drawing room or dining room at Hyde Hall. We are very pleased to accept this portrait on loan from the Cooper Family. Jane Storrs Cooper Worthington was the grand-daughter of Ann Low Cary Cooper Clarke (1783-1850), whose husband, George Clarke, built Hyde Hall.
Detail from a Portrait of George Clarke, (1822-1889)
This portrait is contained in a rectangular gilt frame; subject of portrait is a young man in sailor outfit.
In a letter dated 1839 he talks of posing for the picture and asks his mother to bring his patent leather belt and straw hat the next time she comes to New York since he will need them for the portrait.
Commissioned in 1835 from the artist Charles Cromwell Ingham, this portrait of Hyde Hall’s first chatelaine, Ann Low Cary Cooper Clarke (circa 1780 – 1850), is an idealized image of her as a young woman, arguably around the time she married George the Builder in 1814. (It belongs to the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown.)
Daughter of one of George Washington’s aides and once described as “beautiful and reckless,” Ann married, in 1801, Richard Fenimore Cooper, an elder brother of the famous novelist; he died in 1813 when she was pregnant with their fifth child. Or was she? Gossips certainly believed Alfred Cooper Clarke, as that child was known, was actually the son of George Clarke of Hyde Hall, whom Ann married about a year after Alfred’s birth.
As Wayne Franklin, a biographer of James Fenimore Cooper has written, “Ann was carrying on more-or-less openly” with George Clarke during the final years of her first marriage. Clarke was married too, with a wife back in England, Elizabeth “Eliza” Rochfort (ca. 1768 – 1861), an Irish beauty whose mental condition had deteriorated profoundly by 1818. No divorce documents have ever been found dissolving the marriage of Eliza and George, and even George’s father back in England referred to her as his son’s wife and treated her accordingly.
Nevertheless, George Clarke and the widow Cooper married in Albany on 14 August 1814, with the “sanction of the House of Assembly and the American law.” Was it bigamy? Or merely a lucky legal loophole? The Clarkes had four children: George Hyde Clarke (born and died 1815); Anna Clarke (1817-1899); George Hyde Clarke (1822-1889); and Arthur Clarke (born and died 1826).
As letters in the Clarke family papers at Cornell University attest, George Clarke’s children by Eliza Rochfort considered their American half-siblings to be illegitimate interlopers.
The Clarke Family Coat of Arms (pictured at the right), contains several elements that are researched at Hyde Hall on an ongoing basis. One of these elements is the bird that is pictured in the upper right of the crest. John Bower, Hyde Hall’s Publicity and Outreach Manager and a senior site interpreter, has discovered the following information:
The liver bird is the symbol of the city of Liverpool, England. The use of a bird to represent the city dates to the medieval era, but the idea that the “liver bird” is a mythical creature specific to Liverpool evolved in the 20th century. The bird is normally represented in the form of a cormorant holding a branch of laver in its mouth, and appears as such on Liverpool’s coat of arms. (Source: Wikipedia)
The bird’s species has long been the subject of confusion and controversy. The bird shown on the medieval seal is generic, but the wording of the seal contains references to King John, who granted the town’s charter in 1207. John, in honor of his patron saint, frequently used the device of an eagle—long associated with St. John. Further indication that the seal was an homage to King John is found in the sprig of broom initially shown in the bird’s beak, broom being a symbol of the royal family of Plantagenet.
By the 17th century, the origins of the bird had begun to be forgotten, with references to the bird as a cormorant, still a common bird in the coastal waters near Liverpool. The 17th century mace refers to a “leaver,, while a manual on heraldry from later in the century confuses matters further by assuming this term is related to the old Low Dutch word lefler, meaning spoonbill—a bird rarely found in northern England.
The College of Arms refers to the bird as a cormorant, adding that the sprig in the mouth is of laver, a type of seaweed, thus implying that the bird’s appellation comes from the sprig.