Maria Reynolds (1768-1832)

  Paper, paint, nylon, plastic, copper.

Paper, paint, nylon, plastic, copper.

The Loves of Aaron Burr:
Portraits in Corsetry & Binding

Maria Reynolds (1768-1832)

In 1789, as Washington’s Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton
was suspected of being intimately close to his intriguing sister-in-law, the
very chic Angelica Schuyler Church, who in turn infers his having an intimate “confidential” relationship with the British intelligence agent, Major George Beckwith – who, with Major Andre, is known for facilitating the treason of General Benedict Arnold.

Les liaisons dangereuses will extend confidences from sexual to the financial. Hamilton employs a confidence man to trade Treasury securities. James Reynolds who he’ll make out a pimp, and Maria (pronounced Mariah), Reynold’s attractive wife, Hamilton will publicly denounce a whore – inspiring John Adam’s infamous description of Hamilton as “The bastard brat of a Scottish peddler possessed of a superabundance of secretions which he could not find whores enough to draw off.” 

While Hamilton’s slanders of Aaron Burr were frequently of a sexual nature,
it was his own hypocritical philandering that ensnared him in what was
known as ‘The Maria Reynolds Affair’, the nation’s first sex scandal. In 1792, caught out by the humorless James Monroe, Hamilton contends the monies
in question he’s paid to the Reynolds was sexual blackmail. In this he attempts to compensate the cuckold, cover up his affair with Mrs. Reynolds, and divert attention from his wife’s family’s finances. When things get ugly, Hamilton challenges Monroe to a duel, requiring Burr to intervene, diffusing the situation, effecting Maria’s divorce from her husband becoming her consolation and Hamilton’s nemesis.  

The story goes that what Hamilton had to pay Maria for… Burr was given freely. The one-sided animosity likely began as New York’s Clinton faction elected Burr to the Senate over Hamilton’s father-in-law, Philip Schuyler.
Eliza Hamilton, unable to reconcile her position as cuckold by her own sister with her husband, followed by this public admission of infidelity, withdrew
into repressed domestic seclusion engaging in needlework. Needlework
taken to the extraordinary extreme of an entire needlepoint sofa.

Monroe went to Jefferson with evidence of Hamilton’s guilt. When the Maria Reynolds Affair splashes over the flash press in 1797, it’s Jefferson who conspires against Hamilton. Jefferson, who made his money from Slavery, breeding and trafficking, is eliminating the abolitionists who stand between him and an all-slave Louisiana Purchase. Hamilton, deflecting the Virginian Republican’s accusations of speculation, excuses himself in his Observations on Certain Documents pamphlet, by putting the onus on the Daughter of Eve, Maria Reynolds. Not everyone bought it:  

“What shall we say to the conduct of a man who could deliberately write and publish a history of his private intrigues, degrade himself in the estimation of all good men, and scandalize a family to clear himself of charges which no man believed!  Such a man is unfit to administer the government.”  

                                                            Noah Webster on Alexander Hamilton.

The end of their Affair was the beginning of the end for Hamilton. By contrast, Burr was the sort of friend to Maria who financed her children’s educations.

The corset of Maria Reynolds is ablaze in red and gold paper cast over the figure and fabric. The letters are few as what we have attributed to her are forgeries in Hamilton’s hand. The armature is copper and plastic with string.


The Loves Of Aaron Burr:
Portraits in Corsetry & Binding
The Film 

Drawing connections between her own interpretive work
and the historic corsets exhibited in

Fashioning the Body: An Intimate History of the Silhouette
Camilla Huey will speak on the changing architectural, structural, and functional forms
of corsets, corset-making, materials, and methodologies. The artist employs these
forms in her unique approach to analyzing portraits of nine 18th- and 19th-century women. Through ephemera, fetishism, material culture, and texts, the artist
invites the audience to follow both design and historic research as she explores biographical narrative. She will bring selected works from her exhibition,

The Loves of Aaron Burr: Portraits in Corsetry & Binding

Preview May 7, 6pm Bard Graduate Center
38 West 86th Street, New York City 10024
$25 RSVP 
programs@bgc.bard.edu

The Premiere of
The Loves of Aaron Burr: Portraits in Corsetry & Binding Film
with select works from the exhibition at the Morris-Jumel Mansion. Manhattan's oldest house the very place where the lives of these women, filming and exhibition took place.
A reception and screening with discussion to follow.
View the works of 
Yinka Shonibare, MBE, Colonial Arrangements before.

Premiere May 14, 6pm Morris-Jumel Mansion
65 Jumel Terrace, New York City 10032
$25 RSVP 
visitorservices@morrisjumel.org

Camilla Huey (artist/couturière) has exhibited artwork at the Bard Graduate Center
and the Morris-Jumel Mansion in New York City. Her exhibit, 
The Loves of Aaron Burr: Portraits in Corsetry & Binding, paid homage to the women who surrounded and influenced this controversial founding father.