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.


The Clever Pup said...

Great detective work. What fun! I love the big hat on Master Nugent.

Lynne said...

I'm SO enjoying your blog! Thank you so much for sharing your research with the wide world!

Beth Ahrens-Kley said...

Thankyou ladies. I so enjoy doing this, and just a tiny bit of support gives me such pleasure!
Yes. "Master Nugent" . Of course!!

emikk said...

Nothing slips past you Beth, do you ever work those "can you find six faces in this picture" puzzles usually found next to "word Jumble" in many newspapers?

emikk said...


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