“It can be said with truth that few artists are more faithful to individuality than is Miss Macomber, and her pictures each year furnish fresh evidence of a constant growth in power of allegorical expression and in colorative effects. An exquisite purity of atmosphere pervades each new theme.”
Mary Macomber’s “ideal pictures,” as she called them, were idiosyncratic, appealing to a small group of enthusiasts who appreciated them for their beauty and spirituality. After her death William Howe Downes paid tribute: “Behind [her paintings] were gracious and tender fancies, of human and universal application, ideas of life and nature suitable for pictorial expression, embodied in charming and lovely forms.”
 William Howe Downes, “Mary L. Macomber,” Boston Evening Transcript (February 5, 1916).
 An Important Exhibition of the Latest Works of Mary L. Macomber, Vose Galleries catalogue, March 3 – 15, 1913.
More information about this painting...
An Instrument of Many Strings was one of three paintings Robert C. Vose purchased directly from Macomber in April 1901, the other two pieces being Saint Cecelia and Love’s Lament. Prior to catching Mr. Vose’s eye, the painting was exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1898 and in the winter exhibition of the Worcester Art Museum, and has the distinction of being one the artist’s most memorable pieces; it was reproduced in two comprehensive articles about Macomber’s talent written during her lifetime, in 1903 and 1908. The enchanting composition was also included in Vose Galleries’ 1913 solo exhibition of Macomber’s work, which inspired the following passage in A. J. Philpott’s critical review: “There is a personal distinction in all of Miss Macomber’s work. Life and thought are symbolized and interpreted through the spiritualized figures and faces of young women. She is the symbolist of life in the feminine. All of her ideals in thought revolve around young womanhood. In this one respect she differs from all other artists. These faces and figures in her pictures are visions of young womanhood and there is a subtle feeling of rapture in every face – the rapture of song, of music, of love, of Spring, of Autumn. These faces grow on you – they haunt you.”
 Uncited newspaper clipping, 1913. Vose Galleries archives.
Purchased by Robert C. Vose, inventory no. 920, April 1901 (ledger crossed out and painting later assigned inventory No. 1242
Eventually to Eugene O’Karma Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia
To private collection, Marietta, Georgia, early 1970s, and by descent to private collection, Alpharetta, Georgia
1). (on frame at top, in white) #87
2). (on frame at top, in white) $750.°°
1). Museum of Fine Arts / Boston, Massachusetts / Special Loan Exhibition / of / The Works of the Guild of Boston Artists Past And Present / Title: An Instrument of Many Strings / Artist: Mary L. Macomber / Owner: Robert C. Vose / Address: Vose Gallery / 559 Boylston Street / Boston, Massachusetts / Return Address: (blank) / Valuation for Insurance: (blank)
2). Artist – Mary L. Macomber / Title: “An Instrument of Many Strings” / Owner: Lent by Robert C. Vose Galleries / Price $500. Insurance Value $500. / Return Address: R. C. Vose Galleries / 559 Boylston St.
3). Springville High School Art Ass’n., Inc. / Title: An Instrument of Many Strings / Artist: Mary L. Macomber / Return to: R. C. Vose / 559 Boylston St. / Boston, Mass.
1). “Miss Macomber’s Paintings,” by William Howe Downes. New England Magazine, November 1903, pp. 276-287, illus.
2). “Miss Mary Macomber, Painter of Religious Pictures,” unidentified newspaper (torn, fragile), 1908, illus.
1). 16th Autumn Exhibition, National Academy of Design, November 15 – December 18, 1897, No. 270 An Instrument of Many Strings
2). 67th Annual Exhibition, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, January 10 – February 22, 1898, No. 298 An Instrument of Many Strings
3). Winter Exhibition of the Worcester Art Museum 1898-99, Massachusetts, No. 84 An Instrument of Many Strings
4). An Important Exhibition of the Latest Works of Mary L. Macomber, Vose Galleries, Boston, March 3 – 15, 1913, No. 3 An Instrument of Many Strings
5). Vose Loan Collection Exhibition, Mahoning Institute of Art, Youngstown, Ohio, held at the Reuben McMillan Free Library, February 8 – 20, 1916, No. 51 An Instrument of Many Strings (the exhibition featured paintings by Macomber, Paul Dougherty, Charles H. Davis, and Daniel Garber)
6). Special Loan Exhibition of the Works of the Guild of Boston Artists Past and Present, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, unknown dates
7). Springville High School Art Association, Springville, Utah, unknown dates