Monday, March 30, 2009

The "Pedigree Of Major Samuel Meeker" Chap. I

Without this book, esssentially outlining a tree to the sitter in the portrait and providing his name "Major Samuel Meeker", all would have been lost. Without this name, my interest in sleuthing a possible connection to me and my family would most likely have evaporated, since "Peale" meant nothing to me (see post "Misattribution" 3/4/2009). Until I actually was in possession of the portrait, I didn't even know this book existed...and it seemed more of an afterthought that my mom handed it to me. A musty old thing as quaint as the portrait itself, with names that meant nothing to me. There was no indication, by anyone including my mom, that this was OUR family that was depicted! The names were foreign gibberish. Then again, I had only just begun my jump into genealogy. My first revelation was recognition of the two great aunties, Emma, Jane, and their sister Carrie (my gt grandmother) Martin from New Jersey, from whence the tree was traced back to Samuel Meeker.
A HUGE step forward! How cool!

The Pedigree Of Major Samuel Meeker

So, the sitter was Major Samuel Meeker, painted by Peale.
What? Wow, a Major during the time of the American Revolution!!
The word went around in my family. However, much to my irritation, they mostly remained glassy-eyed as I excitedly related my latest discoveries, describing our connection to a Revolutionary War Hero! (It seems I am the only one bitten by the genealogy gene.)
But...hold on not so fast.... parts of the puzzle were simply not falling into place as I expected. But, I will tell a story about the Major, for I spent much time on this interesting character which included taking a trip back east on the quest to learn more.

the first page
the second page (click on photo for larger view)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ann Penington

Beauty and Charm Immortalized
Ann Penington 1805 by Gilbert Stuart; Philadelphia Society for the Preservation of Landmarks, The Powel House; Bequest of Miss Frances Wister
Her half sister married John Wister (see entries below on Catherine Wister Miles).
All is made more poignant as this young girl died soon after the painting was accomplished, of pulmonary tuberculosis.

From Barratt & Miles:
…Her father and his brother Edward Penington were partners in a sugar refinery in Philadelphia that was founded by her grandfather Edward, a prominent Quaker merchant. Glimpses of her life are found in her uncle Edward Penington’s record of theater visits in Philadelphia. “Nancy [as she was known] P.” went to the theater with her uncle Edward at least once in 1801 and in 1802, and in 1803 she joined her uncle’s theater parties several times. *

From Lawrence Park:
Daughter of Isaac and Sarah Penington of Bordentown, New Jersey. She died the year following the painting of her portrait, of consumption.
Bordentown, 1805. Canvas 32 x 28 inches. Seated, three-quarters left, in a gilded armchair covered with crimson brocade, with eyes to spectator, and wearing a black velevet gown. Her hair is auburn, and her eyes “red-hazel.” She holds a miniature in her hands, and through an open window one catches a pleasing glimpse of the Delaware river, a bit of landscape painting which shows what he might have accomplished had he turned his brush to landscape art. This picture is especially interesting as being one of the few known portraits by Stuart to which he affixed his name, “G. Stuart, Bordentown, 1805,” being painted beneath the window.

* Further dates and names of plays which Ann attended are listed, taken originally from “Edward Penington’s Day Book, 1799-1806” in the collection of The Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
In Ann's will, her mother was designated as beneficiary to the estate, and upon her mother's death to her sister Elizabeth Wister, and her uncle Edward .....
It can also be noted here that regarding the Met Museum of Art book on the Stuart exhibition [2004-5] by Carrie Rebora Barratt and Ellen Miles (Gilbert Stuart), a team of researchers aided the authors considerably as they delved into the life, times, and works of the artist. It is a beautiful and excellent book, and I gratefully acknowedge the use of this source (as well as all others.) See my sources on the right hand side.
Click on the image for a larger view, allowing the signature to be seen. It can be easily speculated that Stuart was well pleased with this work, perhaps that is why he signed it?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Is the portrait of Catherine Wister Miles c.1797 by Gilbert Stuart?

What is the quest for a formal attribution like?

After considerable research and preparation of documentary evidence, David arranged for his family, together with the portrait of Catherine Wister Miles, to assemble in Washington at the National Portrait Gallery, where the portrait was examined by three experts. David wrote, “You have to envision this - as our family is standing in front of the unfinished Stuart portrait of Martha Washington …. (continues below)...

Significant clues to support the attribution made by David and his father

~Her husband was painted by GS, albeit at a different time; Stuart often found his customers from within circles of families/friends he had already painted
~In the same area (Philadelphia, Germantown), in the same time period
~Provenance; the passing through the family hands, is solid, and the timing for when the two paintings were separated is understood
~The style of the painting, as noted by the attributors, is that of Gilbert Stuart, showing a focus on detail of the face, and does not indulge in ‘flattery’, and is unique in depicting a female with glasses on her head!
~The possession of eyeglasses points to a woman of funds, ie able to afford a portrait by one such as Gilbert Stuart
~There is no record of this painting by Gilbert Stuart, but he did not keep records

The attributors state:

~that the portrait is a panel painting on a very smooth surface that was grained to produce Stuart’s signature twill canvass effect
~the white on Mrs. Miles’ shawl is in keeping with white flourishes found on other portraits.
~This is an unsigned portrait. …With closer detection, distinctive “s”s are evident on three folds of her bonnet. [Stuart is known to have a whimsical touch.]
~the essence of Catherine is successfully depicted by the artist; stern, moral, humble

…and the "experts" start rolling me over the coals…. My art historian in Cleveland (Ms B. F.) who has impeccable art credentials - is our greatest supporter - warned me of the response we might get. You would have expected a follow-up report - but none was forthcoming. ….. So - as the Smithsonian is not subject to the FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] - I never could ascertain what was said among all the art professionals - in their email or written correspondence.
So licking my wounds - I carried on for another day.

David’s Epilogue
I'm about to set out on yet another adventure with this portrait - at the suggestion of a former University of Akron professor who teaches in Florida - and hers is a worthy idea - making the rounds of the Women Studies' program throughout the nation. As I tell my children ( well - young adults already - 15, 17, and 22!) it's all about courage and commitment - which is applicable to any age!

In this "enlightened" era - I'm left to wonder whether those words have meaning and yet, as we share a passion for enlightening the world to the courage and commitment exhibited by our ancestors, there is a reason for spreading the message!

For reports on the portraits of Catherine Wister Miles and her husband Samuel;

Sunday, March 22, 2009

David, descendant of Samuel Miles

David McCann with the Gilbert Stuart portrait of Samuel Miles that was pulled out of storage at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Not all GS works are constantly on display. The photo below shows David involved in his mission to study the social history of his ancestors Samuel and wife Catherine Wister Miles.

Colonel Samuel Miles; Gilbert Stuart c 1800
in the collection of the Corcoran Gallery of Art

The genius of Gilbert Stuart, acknowledged during his lifetime & today as well, was his ability to nail the likeness of the sitter onto the canvas.

From Lawrence Park:

Born in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. He served in the French and Indian wars and in 1761 settled in Philadelphia as a wine merchant, becoming also a large landholder in Chester County, where he founded the town of Milesburg. He was a member of the Assembly in 1772-1776, and was appointed brigadier-general of the Pennsylvania forces in 1776 after having been taken prisoner at the battle of Long Island in the previous August. He was exchanged in 1778 and became successively Judge of the High Court of Errors and Appeals, member of the city council of Philadelphia, alderman and mayor. His autobiography, written in 1802, was published in 1873 in the "American Historical Record," Philadelphia.

Philadelphia, c. 1800. Panel, 29x 23 1/2 inches. This bust portrait shows him turned half-way to the right, with his grayish-blue eyes directed at the spectator. His thin locks, sparse on top, but long at the back of his head, are grayish-white. He wears a black coat, white neckcloth and lace jabot. The order of the Society of the Cincinnati is suspended from his left coat lapel. The background is in tones of olive, shading to almost black towards the left. At the right is a draped curtain of brownish-plum.

Presented in 1909 by Miss Elizabeth F. McKean to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washinton, D.C.
David McCann notes about Mile's captivity by the British; "In correspondence from General William Howe, Colonel Miles was granted a two-week parole provided, under the strictest of regulations, he did nothing to further the patriot cause. December, 1777 he [Miles] made good use of [this] time as he was reunited with Catherine [see entry before this one, Catherine Miles] at their Spring Mill home. John Wister Miles was born on September 9, 1778. The John Miles branch of the family would lead to me; hence John’s birth takes on greater significance. His Majesty’s Government of King George III is to be thanked for its benevolence. "

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Another journey to attribute a family portrait to Gilbert Stuart

Earlier this month, I received a note from a person I did not know, congratulating me on my discovery and attribution of the Gilbert Stuart portrait Samuel Meeker. My interest was piqued, I wrote back and asked, "Who are you? What is your story?" As it turns out David McCann has been on a strikingly similar path to mine ~ the family possesses an ancestral portrait passed down through the generations, no signature, yet bearing remarkable signs of being a GS portrait. The female sitter Catherine Wister Miles was born in 1742 to a prominent Philadelphian family well-known to the artist, who painted more than one Wister family member. Even more exciting, a portrait of the husband of Catherine, Samuel Miles, is attributed to Gilbert Stuart and is presently housed in the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington. However, the two paintings were not painted at the same time, at some point they were separated, and the portrait of Samuel Miles has enjoyed the attribution to Gilbert Stuart whereas the portrait of Catherine has not. David, a lover of history, ancestral sleuthing, and as fascinated as I am by the genius of Gilbert Stuart, has made it his mission to gain admission from the experts that the portrait of his ancestor, Catherine Wister Miles, can be attributed to Gilbert Stuart. Here is his story.

My journey of discovery was equally as exciting and, if you would like, I would be happy to share my bibliography with you. The portraits I have attached are of Philadelphia's Samuel Miles and his wife Catherine. The 1802 Stuart portrait of Samuel Miles is housed in the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington; the other - of Catherine - in Akron, Ohio. .....So - as to my journey ... well, it is almost like a quest for the Holy Grail - taking me up and down the east coast - meeting with the "experts" and finding more and more information to support my claim. From New York City - Philadelphia and the American Philosophical Society; Winterthur, Delaware and the Downs Collection Library; Washington and the Corcoran Gallery and the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. It can be a lonely investigative trek, Beth, very lonely - but your portrait has that classic Gilbert Stuart portrait style for men. The women, on the other hand, he did so differently. And therein has been my challenge - but I have not been deterred by what many of the "experts" have had to say. Some say "yes"; others are non-committal - and then there are the naysayers. I have been more intrigued by the history of the woman.....

Catherine Wister Miles (1742-1797) c. 1796
Catherine Wister fell in love with a young soldier of Welsh origin named Samuel Miles, who had seen active service in the French and Indian war and had successfully raised himself from a private to the rank of captain in His Majesty's Service. However John Wister, father of Catherine, considered the young man unsuitable to ask for the hand of his daughter as the Captain did not measure up to the necessary financial and social standards, and, he was not of the Quaker faith. Marriages were definitly not to be defined by love! Samuel Miles had returned to Philadelphia a war hero beaming with pride and resplendent in full regalia and red and gold uniform – Catherine showed her willful determination and strength even at this young age and determined, the young couple were married in February 1761 without parental blessing. Not an auspicious beginning, but eventually Mr. Wister forgave his daughter and backed his son-in-law in the wine and rum trade.

More on Catherine's story, and the attribution, in the next post~ And if you have a similar tale, write me, this is our history and we are proud of it!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

sublime, awe-inspiring talent


Possibly I am biased, but I don't think so. I have seen much of the work of Gilbert Stuart. I believe this portrait of Samuel Meeker, merchant of Philadelphia, ranks among his best efforts. Often the painter arbitrarily did not finish a portrait for one reason or another- this is fully completed... & ...exemplary of his GENIUS.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

How do I know my portrait "Samuel Meeker" is authentic, without...

detail collar
George Thomas John Nugent; 1789-90 by Gilbert Stuart; UCLA Hammer Museum Los Angeles

a signature, or date!

An unsigned/undated painting? ...The Portrait had neither. Allowing my family members to consider the portrait of Samuel Meeker to be a quaint, old-fashioned piece of nonsense that my mother's dog barked at, taking second place (in my mom's tiny sitting room) to the Japanese gold-blocked screen above the antique Japanese tonsu (in the living room).

This is the reason that Samuel Meeker was so easily misattributed, somewhere along the line by a family member, to the wrong painter. It is a reason for why it took me so long to figure out the identity of the artist. But as it turns out, the very fact that there is NO signature on the painting, is a piece of evidence that it WAS painted by Gilbert Stuart. Because in fact he rarely signed/dated his work. "When asked why he did not put his name or initials, to mark his pictures, he said 'I mark them all over.' " from William Dunlap. Gilbert Stuart was so self-confident that he simply felt that his work needed no signature, the evidence was drawn all over the work!
However, a signature is not enough. Naturally a signature can be forged. More evidence to follow, stay tuned!

Sometimes Gilbert Stuart included his signature, mostly in a whimsical fashion. In the above image, his signature can be found on the dog's collar!... a 'g' followed by "Stuart"...

I quote info about the above portrait of George Nugent from Gilbert Stuart Barratt and Miles p 91, cause it is a fun read; "George Thomas John Nugent was born July 17, 1785, and his costume suggests that he was about five when he sat for Stuart. He wears a modified skeleton suit, the outfit designed for a young fellow recently breeched from his petticoats but not yet of age to wear proper gentlemen's clothing. His fall-front knee breeches of cream-colored silk with red topstiching button over the lower edge of his scarlet jacket, making a one-piece suit in reasonable facsimile of adult style. The linen shirt, with knife-pleated frilled muslin collar was at the hight of fashion, worn open and spread wide over the coat. To top it off, Stuart's tiny subject wears an enormous black hat, of the so-called Gainsborough or Marlborough type, with large crown and wide brim made of taffeta or beaver, and trimmed with ostrich plumes. The style derived from French ladies' riding hats of the 1770s and came into vogue for children in England during the 1780s."

The little boy, BTW is holding a cloth, because the Newfoundland breed drools a lot.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Did Angelica...

Goethe in the Campagna; 1787 by Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein

...paint Goethe? was the question by a commentator.

What I can recall, without spending oodles of time right now researching my books (I have a WONDERFUL exhibition book Angelika Kauffmann, 1741-1807 "Eine Dichterin mit dem Pinsel"~ [a poetess with a brush] is that yes she did, but neither Angelica nor Goethe were satisfied with the result, the result being that this painting is not well-known.
Portrait painting was considered to be the highest of the high in art, precisely because it is SO DIFFICULT to achieve a precise likeness of the sitter.

The painting that IS well known of Goethe is that done by Johann H. W. Tischbein pictured here (above), and I give the whole name of the painter (seen above image) because he stems from a painting family of Tischbeins.
Now, note carefully in this painting, Goethe's resemblance to The Skater by Stuart (see entry 2/1/09 & Goethe by Tischbein 2/7/09). Robust and healthy physique, contemplative, out enjoying nature, in Tischbein Goethe is taking a break from a long walk in the countryside of Rome, in Stuart William Grant is also "getting away from it all". Goethe in his early days in the small dukedom of Weimar, walked hill and dale, and loved it. Walking as a form of transportation was very common...
Tischbein met Goethe in 1786 in Italy, and these two also became good friends, travelling together, sketching and painting the Roman ruins.
[more on the Goethe and Charlotte von Stein story] Goethe loved this trip, but did not realize the extent of Charlotte's unhappiness that he left for the trip during the dark of night, without even telling her (thus she suffered the humiliation of not being able to tell her friends whither her intimate friend had gone), and then stayed away from Weimar for two years (which was unplanned). But Goethe needed this break, for perhaps he knew, that the relationship had future. But also the fact is Goethe had dreamed about this trip from the time he was a boy. So the perfect storm was reached, he left, and broke a ten year intimacy apart.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Angelica's influence?

Paul Revere by John Singleton Copely

Benjamin Waterhouse; 1775 by Gilbert Stuart; Redwood Library & Athenaeum, RI

This is one of Gilbert's earliest portraits, of his good friend in Newport RI Benjamin Waterhouse who went on to develop the smallpox vaccine introduced to America in 1800. It was painted in 1775 when Gibby was 20. According to Barratt & Miles in Gilbert Stuart p. 22 ...Stuart "studied his friend's face to a degree unprecedented in his previous work. He achieved a variety of flesh tones, glossy and matte areas on the complexion, and modelling of the head and adjacent hand, replete with folds and sinew, so convicingly that Waterhouse's cheek convincingly rests on his knuckles. Stuart mimicked Copely....." These authors then show the portrait of Paul Revere by John Singleton Copely, but I think the Copely portrait is not as.... simlar to Benjamin Waterhouse.....

as Angelica's portrait of Sir Joshua Reynolds (see below entry 3/11). Darn similar! The same positioning of the hand on the cheek, play of shadow and light, luminescence of the skin: The Copely portrait was done in 1769, and Angelica's 1767. Surely the portrait of Joshua Reynolds would be just as well known, if not more well known, than the Copely portrait? Perhaps Angelica had some ...influence?

Well, I am not an expert, but it sure is fun to speculate....

In my next entry (I think!), I will give the Provenance of Samuel Meeker. The provenance of a painting, aka history of ownership, is what helps to lend authenticity to a particular work.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Angelica's Joshua

I felt it unfair to leave you with a rather unflattering image of an older Joshua Reynolds by GS (see entry just below this one 3/10), so here is a portrait of him as a younger man, by Angelica Kaufmann (at this time Gibby would only be 12 and living with family in Newport, RI). The similarity in facial features captured by both artists (Stuart/Kauffman) is striking, and the viewer is left reassured that ....this is what Sir Joshua Reynolds looked like! Note the appropriateness of the arrangement and accoutrements, the formality. This portrait 'pays proper respect' to the great artist. Now compare such qualities, to Stuart's portrait, and we might begin to understand why his picture was considered derogatory by the Monthly Magazine; or British Register. The critic wondered why the Royal Academy President "was depicted with a wig that was as tight and close as a hackney coachman's caxon, and in the act of taking a pinch of snuff." (from Gilbert Stuart, Barratt & Miles quoting from the Monthy Magazine; or British Register July 1804)

Joshua Reynolds; 1767 by Angelica Kauffman @ National Trust, England
Angelica Kauffman is one of my favorite artists, and is a peer of all the characters that I have thus far mentioned-- born 1747 in Switzerland and raised in Austria. She lived many years in England, and was good friends with Sir Joshua Reynolds. She was the first female to be accepted into the Royal Academy. She subsequently moved back to Rome, at this time the mecca of the Art world ~~Benjamin West studied in Rome--it was the commonly accepted form of high art education; it is rumored that Angelica had a crush on Benjamin during his time there, but interest was not returned. Stuart scoffed at the fact that he had no experience in art education in Italy.~~ Angelica was popular and, rare for a female artist, earned a substantial income from her art. She was one of the first to perfect how to do fast portraits, to earn good income.

When Goethe ran away from his idealized lover Frau von Stein in 1786 (see entries 2/1,4,5,6,7/09), experiencing what he described as the dream of a lifetime in Rome, he and Angelica became the greatest of friends, sharing much time together studying art, composing poetry and enjoying the sights of Italy at this time. After Goethe returned to Weimar two years later, he took up with an unmarried young lady. This was a huge scandal, and correspondence between Angelica and Goethe soon dwindled to a stop.

Angelica was known for painting allegorical, mythological and historical subjects; from 1769 until 1782, she was an annual exhibitor at the Royal Academy. CW Peale named several of his children after great European artists including a daughter, Angelica Kauffman Peale.

Angelica Kauffman; Self-Portrait, 1780-5; @ The State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

more on Sir Joshua Reynolds

To continue from my March 1 entry, in which I comment that, after a sketch my cousin did of myself the afternoon before (including one of The Portrait, which was sort of why I let him sketch me), I felt like Sir Joshua Reynolds. I quote from this entry;
....lovely Lily and I went over to my cousin Craig's to visit with family in San Francisco. There we talked, walked in Golden Gate park, and, then, well, I felt like Sir Joshua Reynolds--the Royal Academy president and principal painter to King George III, who sat for Stuart in 1784, when he was 61. To quote a description of this portrait from the book Gilbert Stuart by Barratt & Miles: "he [Joshua] is aged, weak in the jaw, obviously deaf, and shown without allusion to his profession. ...Sir Joshua rejected the image, protesting that ‘if [Stuart's portrait] was like him, he did not know his own appearance!’ ”

Joshua Reynolds by Gilbert Stuart 1784, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

From Lawrence Park (see entry 2/20/09 "Sketch of Gibby & ...who is Lawrence Park?);
This celebrated English portrait painter was born July 16, 1723, at Plympton, in Devonshire. His father was the Reverand Samuel Reynolds, and his mother, Theophila, daughter of Matthew Potter. Studied under Thomas Hudson in London from 1740 to 1743. In 1749 he went to Italy and lived for two years in Rome. In 1752 he returned, via Paris, to London, and his brilliant career of forty years followed. In 1768 he was one of the founders of the Royal Academy, London, and became its first president . The same year he was knighted.

This portrait by Stuart caused consternation and dismay (besides of course the usual admiration)! Why? Instead of holding a brush or palette, he is holding a golden snuff box (and note, right hand, holding a pinch of snuff between thumb and forefinger!). What is a snuff box? A box which holds tobacco to be sniffed/snuffed. More on this topic later, regarding our celebrated American artist.
Stuart was only 29 at the time of this painting.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Confusion continues on the attribution

Even armed with my digital print out of Edward S. by Gilbert Stuart (see 2/27/09 "I knew...then..."), my confusion continued to reign on the identity of the artist who painted Samuel Meeker. After the editor of the Peale papers stated my portrait was not by CW Peale (see 3/4/09 "Misattribution"), I was still not convinced that the portrait was by Stuart, for there was the Problem of the Timeline. At left one can see on my 'Stow worksheet' the doodle "gone from Am[erica] went to England"-that refers to Stuart. & "timing is off!"
So I next turned to John Trumbull as the possible painter. In fact, the portrait of George Washington...was not Totally Dissimilar.....??

It did not occur to me that I was CHASING the WRONG Samuel Meeker.

John Trumbull, George Washington; 1780; courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art

John Trumbull The Signing of the Declaration of Independence;1817; at US Capitol Building

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


This sticker was on the back of the portrait of Samuel Meeker, which of course lent credence to the thought that the Portrait was by Peale. Probably the most important Peale is Charles Wilson (he had 10 children, many became well-known painters as well). He was born in 1741 and moved to Philadelphia in 1776 where he painted portraits of prominant individuals, including George Washington. He was a prolific painter, and besides his art served during the Revolutionary War, engaged actively in politics and civic affairs, and opened up what is considered to be the first museum in the country, filled with a diverse collection of botanical, biological, and archaeological specimens.
So, it was natural to conclude that, indeed, my portrait was by C W Peale. Wow, I thought!

Until, I began to hit roadblocks. Portrait of John and Elizabeth Lloyd Caldwater; C W Peale 1772 @ Philadelphia Museum of Art
Quite confidently, I wrote David C. Ward (circa 2005), senior associate editor of the Peale Family Papers. He just as confidently dashed the thought that the Portrait was by Peale! He in fact indeed suggested that it might be by our celebrated artist Gilbert Stuart. I just as confidently dismissed this idea, for time lines did not fit. More on that later.
But look closely. How does one describe that DIFFERENCE? ...where the characters in Peale's painting above, somehow are not as dimensional as Samuel Meeker--in fact, there are no styllistic similarities.... Here was one big lesson in art history. Painters have their own "style."
But what about the sticker? Why does it seem even the Philadelphia Museum of Art agreed that it was by Peale? Well, I have received no satisfactory answer by the museum, for how this mistake could be made. But, to make mistakes is human. Also if one looks closely at the smaller print, it says; "Attributions of Loans are those of the Lender". Note also the mispelling of 'Princeton'-- details were not too important I suppose. And, truth be told, at this point Stuart was nowhere near as well-known, as Peale.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Dorinda Evans/Oct 4, 2006/a Confirmation of Sorts

I wrote Ms Evans a note in Oct of 2006 about my Portrait, then sent her a high quality digital photo.
Ms Evans wrote The Genius of Gilbert Stuart, Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ 1999
Is the Portrait a copy? No.


You're right. It is by Gilbert Stuart, or, because I'm not seeing
it in the flesh, it is a careful copy of a Stuart. You can date it on
the probable age of the sitter and his location (when it could have
overlapped Stuart), but it looks, from the costume and the painting
style, to date from about 1800.

Best wishes,

Dorinda Evans

Dorinda Evans
Art History Department
Emory University

Sunday, March 1, 2009

March 1, 2009

Today is my Mom's Birthday, she turns 81. The family celebrated yesterday, and afterwards lovely Lily and I went over to my cousin Craig's to visit with family in San Francisco. There we talked, walked in Golden Gate park, and, then, well, I felt like Sir Joshua Reynolds--the Royal Academy president and principal painter to King George III, who sat for Stuart in 1784, when he was 61. To quote a description of this portrait from the book Gilbert Stuart by Barratt & Miles: "he [Joshua] is aged, weak in the jaw, obviously deaf, and shown without allusion to his profession. ...Sir Joshua rejected the image, protesting that ‘if [Stuart's portrait] was like him, he did not know his own appearance!’ ” Yet despite being discouraged with the piercing accuracy of Stuart's portrayal, it seems that this did not prevent Reynolds from later recommending Stuart to other customers, and from Gilbert Stuart... "On the contrary, the picture endeared Stuart to Reynolds."

But back to my mom for the moment. She is pictured above at her marriage in Carmel, Ca April 1949... Pops is behind her; who many years later lived with my parents before passing away, and because of his request, the Portrait was hung in my mom's small sitting room. These two are direct descendents of Phebe Meeker, twin sister of the sitter. Pop's mother Carrie brought the Portrait from New Jersey to California. Nowadays mom is healthy, reasonably wealthy, and certainly wise, and we had a great Mexican feast to celebrate.
Here is a small bio she wrote for the Senior complex where she now happily resides;
My name is Carolyn [Cory] Ahrens, and I’m a native Californian going back three generations. I was brought up in Carmel, attended Carmel High, UC Berkeley, and graduated from Stanford in 1949. There I met my late husband John, and we had three children before moving to Asia because of John’s job with Bank of Anerica. We lived a total of 17 years in Tokyo, Ashiya, Bangkok, Bombay, and Manila. I very much enjoyed exploring new cultures, making new friends, and travelling throughout Asia and Europe. After we returned, we settled in Menlo Park, and about a year ago I moved to Santa Cruz where all my children, and grandchildren are presently living. I enjoy family, bridge, reading, and taking walks with my dog Sophie.

Sketch by Craig Marshall, Feb 28, 2009
to continue: After the birthday lunch Lily and I went to Craig's, and my artist cousin proceeded to oblige me with a demonstration of his incredible talent. And I was obliged to reflect on how Sir Joshua Reynolds felt when he saw his portrait. My thoughts were ............I can relate !.....
What has happened to the lovely lushness of YOUTH ?
But, the sketch also has something super endearing about it.
I will frame it~
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