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Missing Portrait

Around 1831, Mary Anne Moffatt and Bishop Benedict Joseph Fenwick sat for formal portraits by an American artist named James Bowman (1793-1842).  Mary Anne Moffatt’s portrait, in full Ursuline costume, may have been in the Quebec Ursuline convent as late as 1964. That year, the Bowman Fenwick was sent to Dedham, Massachusetts Ursulines as a gift from the Quebec Ursulines. It was stored in the attic of the Dedham convent for thirty-five years, but sadly, the last living sister who knew of its existence was in the infirmary suffering from severe Alzheimer’s Disease. Nancy Schultz’s research helped the Ursulines rediscover and identify the Bowman Fenwick. In 1973, the Ursuline archivist in Quebec stated that the portrait of Mary Anne Moffatt had also been sent to Dedham, but the Dedham Ursulines have no record of the transaction. The painting, like its subject, simply vanished.   Nancy Schultz helped arrange the purchase of the Bowman Fenwick from the Ursulines by the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.  The portrait and frame have been restored and it is now on display in the foyer of O'Kane Hall, at the entrance to the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Art Gallery.

The author hopes that a member of the Moffatt family, a Canadian or U.S. genealogist might be able to help solve the mystery of Mary Anne Moffatt’s disappearance. If you have genealogical information that might be helpful in solving this mystery, please contact the author.

Photo of Fenwick portrait by Kay Canavino



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