Saturday, July 7, 2012


I met Miss Mary Sears last Sunday at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.  She becharmed me so much that I have been googling her as well as the painter of her portrait, Léon Joseph Florentin Bonnat, who considered this his finest work.  There is little information to be found on Miss Sears, later Mrs. Francis Shaw, but of some interest is her sister, Miss Clara Endicott Sears, the donor of the portrait.

It astonishes me over and over again, how here in New England, so many artists, writers and historical figures are interconnected - the Sears sisters were decendents of the Peabody sisters of Salem.  What is really interesting to me is that Miss Clara Sears built a home in Massachuetts, not knowing that the the property had once hosted Bronson Alcott's (father to Louisa May) utopian community. By 1914 she had established one of America's first outdoor museums, Fruitlands, themed to the Transcendalists ideology that Alcott was passionate about.  Clara was also a romance novelist and authored many New England historical publications.  She remained unmarried.

But I sure wish I could find out more about Clara's lovely sister.  Having one myself, sisters keep me spellbound.  This pair, one married and obscure;  the other, a single and popular philanthopist, make me wonder if they were close.  What did they share?  What was their girlhood like in their protected Brahmin world?  Was Clara a madcap maiden aunt to Mary's children?  Until I find out more, these things will remain a mystery. As a fashionista, I will content myself with enjoying this extraordinary portrait of a young woman in a pretty navy suit with a red rose nosegay pinned just below her heart. 

Here is a portrait of an older Clara.  And as sisters often do, she imitates...with a floral nosegay of her own.


  1. Such a lovely musing... have you investigated the newspapers in ye olde library? Love that portrait! Thank you for sharing this find with us!

  2. Did Clara keep a journal or diary? That would be a good place to find out more. Maybe there are letters. There must be a collection at the Fruitlands Museum of Clara's personal papers. As I am finding with my quest to find out more on Lizzie Alcott (of whom there is little written), reading between the lines of other people's writings can reveal a whole lot. Good luck with your search!