While evidence of the Colden family has mostly been erased from the local landscape, the former prominence of the family is reflected in other ways. Oil portraits of Cadwallader and Alice, Jane’s parents, are in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum. In the American wing the museum displays the paneling and woodwork from the first floor west parlor of the house of Cadwallader Colden Jr. and I’ve recently discovered they own a miniature painting on ivory of Jane’s sister Elizabeth Colden Delancey (1720-1784). The New York Historical Society is another repository for things Colden including the papers and manuscripts of Cadwallader Sr. and various family portraits. Two miniatures on ivory depict Alice Christy Colden (1768-1788/89) the daughter of Jane’s brother David and Jane’s great niece Matilda Hoffman (1791-1809).
Looking for Jane has yielded descriptions of her intellect and curiosity and her superior domestic skills. We get a glimpse of her light side when Jane writes her sister describing a minor injury her new husband incurred while spinning her about. What I haven’t discovered is a picture of her. By examining the portraits of her close female relatives, particularly Elizabeth, four years her senior (lower left) and mother Alice (upper left), it seems likely she had dark hair and eyes, and pale skin. Her mother looks capable and sharp while her sister looks fragile and perhaps timid. In my imagination, Jane would look more like her mother and would never wear Elizabeth’s incredible bonnet or timid expression. I guess a missing portrait doesn’t really matter since I have so obviously formed an image of my own.