Portrait of Nancy Burns

Ferdinand Thomas Lee Boyle (1820 – 1906)
Circa 1844, New York
Watercolour, 19 cm x 17 ¾ cm

Nancy Burns (1800 – 1849), the daughter of slaves, was born near Albany New York. Her parents were owned by an old Albany family. When freed her brother Francis became a clergyman and went on to be a missionary bishop in Liberia, while Nancy entered service with T. Romeyn Beck of Albany as maid to his daughters. In 1836, on the marriage of the eldest daughter to Pierre Van Cortlandt, Nancy Burns accompanied her mistress to the Manor House, Croton-on-Hudson, where she became, according to her epitaph, ‘A faithful nurse, a true friend’, to the family.

The headscarf that Nancy is wearing in this portrait is displayed with it at The American Museum in Britain (object number 1967.81).

© The American Museum in Britain (Bath, UK)

Accession reference: The American Museum in Britain (Bath, UK),1967.80