Known as one of Boston’s great antebellum beauties, Almira Cornelia Penniman (1808–1864) married the Reverend David Hatch Barlow, a graduate of Harvard Divinity School and Unitarian minister, in 1830. (This portrait may have been created to mark that occasion.) The marriage did not last, however, and in 1841 Almira took her three sons and moved to the utopian community of Brook Farm, where she apparently served as the inspiration for the character of Zenobia in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Blithedale Romance (1852). One of her sons, Major General Francis Barlow, was later Attorney General of the State of New York and the husband of reformer and civil rights activist Ellen Shaw, sister of Robert Gould Shaw. This painting descended in the sitter’s family with the attribution to Francis Alexander, a leading mid-century Boston portrait painter.