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State Library of NSW
Mrs F O’Brien1841
Looking at this beautiful portrait you would never suspect it was painted after the sitter’s death. But we know that Sophia had died six months before the painting was exhibited at the artist’s Sydney studio in late September 1841.
A newspaper review of the day confirms that Maurice Felton’s portrait of 21-year-old Sophia Statham O’Brien was painted from a ‘cast taken after her death’ and an ‘engraving said to resemble her’. Felton, a naval surgeon turned artist, may have been present at the time of her death, in order to make the plaster mask of her face.