The new lady of the house


I found this lady peering up at me from half under a table this past weekend at the Brooklyn Flea Philly. This was my first time venturing over to the Piazza for this weekly event, and admittedly, the fact that last Sunday was the Ice Cream Bonanza! played no small part. It was way more than worth it: I got to see the inimitable Stacy of Meadowsweet Mercantile who was vending; I ate 6 types of ice cream, including an interesting scoop of Old Bay and corn from The Bent Spoon; and THEN, the cherry on top, I won the raffle prize! A gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous bag from Peg and Awl. I’ve been coveting their meticulously crafted bags since I spied them at Art Star, and one came into my possession by eating ice cream. I mean, really.

Practicing my haggling skills, which are vaguely improving, I bought the painting for $15, down from the $20 sticker price, and hauled her home on the subway, which greatly improved my usual el experience. Like the lamp, numerous people stopped me to talk about the painting. It is interesting what it takes to elicit a positive interaction with a stranger in this city. Carrying an unusual object will often do it, but not if it’s a 12 foot piece of molding hauled across West Philly. No one talks to you if you carry a big stick. That’s why you have to speak softly, it’s less awkward when you realize that no one will speak back.


In the bottom right corner, the painting is signed, “Lewis, 1958”. A quick search hasn’t turned up anything yet, but I’m going to see if I can do a little more research into the artist and origins. The dates are all wrong, but I’ve started to think of her as Kate Sword. According to the old census reports, my apartment has been carved out of a single family home that was built in the 1870’s by a man named John Palmer Bankson. He lived here with his wife, four children and three maids. The second child and oldest daughter was named Kate Sword Bankson, which is just a phenomenal name, and I like to think she lived up to the knife edge in the core of her name. She was 10 when she moved in and around 18 when she moved out. Sadly, this move was precipitated by her father’s suicide over what the newspaper of the day deemed, “a slight financial embarrassment.” Their mother moved the children a few blocks away and supported the family by going to work in the post office.


The frame was made of a carved wood, and that same evening, I painted it with some leftover paint from the starburst wall. I very, very, very carefully protected the painting with painter’s tape, which didn’t cause any damage, but is probably not the preferred method. As soon as it was dry, I hung it up on the wall next to the vestibule, a solid start towards filling this particular expanse of



  1. I like this! The color really makes her stand out. I’m going to try and hit up Brooklyn Flea Philly in a few weeks for my new place too 🙂

    1. Thank you! You should definitely check it out, there was a great selection of vendors, and I’d love to see this continue to be an ongoing thing. 🙂

  2. I have a pastel portrait of my grandmother from the same period over my fireplace. Love the glamour! So happy this painting has found a great home and a fabulous backstory.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: