Friday, February 26, 2010

a lovely portrait, claimed to be by Jane Stuart

In December 'Mark' sent me this portrait of his relative, he says it is by Jane Stuart.

(I cannot vouch for the accuracy of the attribution.)

I wrote Mark a couple of months ago, after he left a comment on the blog. "I just noticed your comment on my gilbert stuart blog. You have a portrait (somber) by Jane Stuart? How do you know it is by Jane Stuart (is it signed)? Can you send me a pic, and the story of the painting?"

He wrote back:


I took a some pics of the painting, from my iphone, as some thief stole my digital camera last fall :(. It's not hanging now and needs some plaster fixed on frame (as you can see in pic). As I look at the picture and read my comment from your blog, I don't think she looks as somber now as I once thought before. Ms. Stuart was definitely a master painter. The person in the portrait would be my great-great grandmother (Jane Adams), i believe.
Kind regards, Mark

Jane was the youngest of 12 children born to Gilbert Stuart and his wife, Charlotte and was one of her father’s most trusted studio assistants, often mixing paints for him as a child and later helping to finish his paintings. She maintained her own studio in Boston for several years before moving back to Newport in 1858, and continued to paint and entertain up until her death in 1888.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Stuart led off in one of his merriest veins, and the time passed pleasantly in jocose and amusing talk (with Horace Binney)

Horace, a very young and up-coming lawyer was painted by Stuart in 1800, and one day some 50 years later, as an older man, he talked to his nephew about the portrait. This nephew wrote down these reminisces with his uncle in a diary, which was then later shared with George Mason, biographer of Stuart “The Life and Works of Gilbert Stuart” 1894 ... and I share them in their entirety with you here. Enjoy the insight into our artist: his particular mode of painting, issues of concern, and ... how happy he was to not be a Tailor!

Binney, Horace

From the diary of the late Horace Binney Wallace, a nephew of Mr. Binney, I am permitted to make the following extract:

“Wednesday, June 31st, 1852. I called today upon Mr. Binney, before leaving town for the summer. The conversation turned upon Stuart’s portrait of him, which hangs in our back parlor. He said that it was painted in the autumn of 1800, when he was not twenty-one years old. Some one had brought out from Canton some Chinese copies of Stuart’s Washington, and Stuart prosecuted an injunction in the Circuit Court of the United States against the sale of them. ‘I was sedulous,’ said Mr. Binney, ‘in my attendance on the courts, and here I became acquainted with Stuart. He came frequently to my office,’ continued Mr. Binney, ‘which was in Front street. I was always entertained by his conversation. I endeavored to enter into his peculiar vein, and show him that I relished his wit and character. So he took snuff, jested, punned and satirized to the full freedom of his bent.’ “Binney’ he said to one of my friends, ‘has the length of my foot better than any one I know of,’ meaning, I suppose, that I knew how to humor him, and give him play.
“ ‘When your mother requested me to give her the portrait that is in your house, I made an appointment with Stuart, and called to give my first sitting. He had his panel ready (for the picture is painted on a board), and I said: ‘Now, how do you wish me to sit? Must I be grave? Must I look at you?’ ‘No,’ said Stuart; ‘sit just as you like, look whichever way you choose; talk, laugh, move about, walk around the room, if you please.’ So, without more thought of the picutre on my part, Stuart led off in one of his merriest veins, and the time passed pleasantly in jocose and amusing talk. At the end of an hour I rose to go, and, looking at the portrait, I saw that the head was as perfectly done as it is at this moment, with the exception of the eyes, which were blank, I gave one more sitting of an hour, and in the course of it Stuart said: ‘Now, look at me one moment,’ I did so. Stuart put in the eyes by a couple of touches of the pencil, and the head was perfect. I gave no more sittings.
“ ‘When the picture was sent home,’ continued Mr. Binney, ‘it was much admired; but Mr. T***** M***** observed that the painter had put the buttons of the coat on the wrong side. Sometime after this, Stuart sent for the picture, to do some little matter of finish which had been left, and, to put an end to a foolish cavil, I determined to tell him of M.’s criticism; but how to do it without offending him was the question. The conversation took a turn upon the excessive attention which some minds pay to the minutie of costume, etc. This gave the opportunity desired. ‘By the way, said I, ‘do you know that somebody has remarked that you have put the buttons on the wrong side of that coat?’ ‘Have I?’ said Stuart. ‘Well, thank God, I am no tailor.’ He immediately took his pencil and with a stroke drew the lapelle to the collar of the coat, which is seen there at present. ‘Now,’ said Stuart, ‘it is a double-breasted coat, and all is right, only the buttons on the other side not being seen.’ ‘Ha!’ said I, ‘you are the prince of tailors, worthy to be master of the merchant tailors’ guild.’
“ ‘Stuart,’ said Mr. Binney ‘had all forms in his mind, and he painted hands, and other details, from an image in his thoughts, not requiring an original model before him. There was no sitting for that big law-book that, in the picutre, I am holding. The coat was entirely Stuart’s device. I never wore one of that color [a near approach to a claret color]. He thought it would suit the complexion.’
“ ‘On the day when I was sitting to him the second time,’ said Mr. Binney, ‘I said to Stuart, ‘What do you consider the most characteristic feature of the face? You have already shown me that the eyes are not; and we know from sculpture, in which the eyes are wanting, the same thing.’ Stuart just pressed the end of his pencil against the tip of his nose, distorting it oddly. ‘Ah, I see, I see,’ cried Mr. Binney.
“Mr. Binney agreed with me in thinking that the Washington was one of Stuart’s least inspired heads. Stuart used to call that head, you know, his ‘hundred-dollar bill.’ One day, when he had his family at Germantown, and his painting room in the city, learning from Mrs. Stuart that the domestic treasure was empty, he set off to come to town, to his bank, for one hundred dollars. At a tavern, half-way, got out of the stage to get something to drink, and in searching his pocket-book found a fifty-dollar note, which he had forgotten that he had. When the coachman called upon him to get into the coach again, he replied, ‘You may go on; I mean to wait for the return coach.’
“ ‘Stuart,’ Mr. Binney caid, ‘thought highly of his portrait of John Adams. Showing it one day to Mr. Binney, ‘Look at him,’ said he. ‘It is very like him, is it not? Do you know what he is going to do? He is just going to sneeze.’
“ ‘Stuart had an anecdote illustrative of physiognomy—its truth or falsehood. There was a person in Newport celebrated for his powers of calculation, but in other respects almost an idiot. One day, Stuart, being in the British Museum, came upon a bust, and immediately exclaimed to his companion, who was also a Rhode Island man: ‘Why, here is a head of Calculating Jemmy.’ He called the curator and said: ‘I see you have the head of Calculating Jemmy here.’ “Calculating Jemmy!’ said the curator; ‘that is the head of Sir Isaac Newton.’ "
The portrait of Mr. Binney above described, Mr. John William Wallace gave back to his uncle in his old age. It is a picture of a youth of twenty years, having a high complexion, bright chestnut-colored hair and splendid blue eyes. Hon. Horace Binney died in 1875, aged 96 years.
Professional Career:
Founding member of the Hasty Pudding Club
Founding member of the Law Library Company of the City of Philadelphia;Director, 1805-1819; 1821-1827
Assembly of Pennsylvania, member, 1806-1807
1st U.S. Bank, Director, 1808
City of Philadelphia, Common Council, president, 1810-1812
City of Philadelphia, Select Council, member 1816-1819
Founded the Apprentices' Library 1821
Associated Members of the Bar of Philadelphia, Vice Chancellor, 1821
Law Association of Philadelphia, Vice Chancellor, 1827-1836; Chancellor, 1852-54
Law Academy, President,1832 Member of the U.S. Congress 1833-1835
Horace Binney by Gilbert Stuart
National Gallery of Art DC
from Lawrence Park:

Honorable Horace Binney

1780-1875 A son of Dr. Barnabas and Mary (Woodrow) Binney of Philadelphia. He was graduated from Harvard College in 1797, admitted to the Philadelphia bar in 1800 and became one of the most prominent lawyers of the country. He obtained his LL.D. Harvard, in 1827. He was a member of the American Philosophical Society; of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and a Fellow of the American Academy.

John Adams by Stuart
National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C

about to sneeze?

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


Kasilof, on the Kenai Peninsula. Becky's house. Me, doggie Aleutia.
Becky is a childhood friend, her parents and my parents were friends in Ukiah, Ca. in the late 1950s. Her father was in the lumber business in northern California.

Noah (Becky's youngest son) and my daughter Lily

A view from the guest house where we stayed the first night, had Reindeer sausage for breakfast.
A happy moose.

"Veronica's" in Ninilchik. We planned a big party there, it was closed.

Alaskan toys.

happy kids


doggie to my rescue

Homer, at Dean's house (winner of Iditarod 1984)



approaching Homer

Joseph *Story* *Stow*... and evidence of my early confusion about who the artist could be of SAMUEL MEEKER

... Edward Stow by Gilbert Stuart 1802/3
When telling the tale of Joseph Story and his wife in the posts previous to this one, the next portrait described in Park was Edward Stow, which, although a typical Stuart portrait, has special meaning for me because it was when I first stumbled across this portrait, just by sheer luck on the internet, that I noted the striking similarities between this portrait and my own of Samuel Meeker, and I thought then: "My portrait is not by Peale, but by Stuart!"
So I have decided to show this portrait again, and the 'cheat sheet' printout I made with notes, which so clearly show my confusion of a few years ago. Because I thought my portrait was of Major Meeker (click here for more on the Major), the generational year was completely off as Major Meeker was the 1st cousin of Captain Samuel Meeker, father of the sitter (click here for more on the father of Samuel). And the family thought it was by Peale! But Peale's style, although the artist fit the right time frame for Major Meeker, was just not ....right..... So then I thought the artist was Trumbull. I knew about Stuart, but not knowing the style of his painting, I had ruled him out because at the time that Major Meeker would have been painted, Stuart was AWAY in England!
But yet I thought, look at that same arrangement, the same color schemes, the pose, the clothing, the curtain and sky, the chair, showing a hand and some papers...HOW was Major Meeker painted by Stuart? How to FIT that timeline! But in the end, I finally pieced together that my gt grandmother had made a mistake in her family tree book, that the sitter in the portrait was NOT Major Meeker (who was also a SAMUEL) but in fact an entirely different Meeker, Samuel Meeker, merchant of Philadelphia. (A major clue was finding out about the Stuart portrait of William Meeker which is listed in Park. William had been a business partner in Philadelphia of a "Samuel Meeker", hmmmm I thought.) So in the end it was not the Major, a local militia man who had to sell his farm in Sussex New Jersey because of debt, although famed for having fought in the Battle of the Minisink, but a young man stemming from the same family, who made his fortune in the shipping, banking, and insurance business in early Philadelphia! A generation later!

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 worksheet the doodle "gone from America went to England" -that refers to Stuart. & "timing is off!"
And now that I have the Lawrence Park volumes (listing a large number of Stuart portraits), I see that the portrait was done in 1802/3... So the fit is super/unquestionable, as I have determined that the portrait of Samuel Meeker was done in 1803. (More on why/how I figured this date, later.)
From Lawrence Park:
Edward Stow 1768-1847
A son of Edward and Mary (Belcher) Stow of Boston, but was born in New York City. He married, in 1793, Anna Brewer Peck, and lived for some years in Philadelphia. It was there that he met Gilbert Stuart and his wife and a great friendship ensued. In 1804 he returned to Boston, and from 1813 until shortly before his death, he was clerk or secretary of the new England Mississippi Land Company.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Sarah, wife of Joseph Story by Gilbert Stuart

Mrs. Joseph Story by Gilbert Stuart 1819

In the post before this the social, cultural impact of Sarah's husband Joseph (a justice on the United States Supreme Court) on the development of our Republic was described. Not as much is known about his second wife Sarah, who most likely fulfilled her appropriate duties as a wife and mother. In the portrait above she would be age 35. As Joseph's portrait was also done in 1819, it can be presumed they were commissioned at the same time by Joseph, who was then about 40.
From Lawrence Park:
Mrs. Joseph Story

Sarah Waldo Wetmore was a daughter of Judge William Wetmore and Sarah (Waldo) Wetmore, both of Salem, Massachusetts. In 1808 she married, in the North Church, Boston, Joseph Story as his second wife.

Boston, 1819. Panel, 32 ¾ x 25 ¾ inches. She is shown at half-length, seated, turned half-way to the right, with her light brown eyes directed to the spectator. Her chestnut hair in curls over brow and temples is in a knot held by a jeweled comb. She has a lovely brow, a long nose, lips almost verging on a smile, a calm dignity and much charm. Her low-necked dress is of a sheer material trimmed with a lace collar and a narrow belt of turquoise-blue ribbon. A red camel’s hair shawl is draped in such a manner as to cover her left arm and shoulder and, passing at the back, is seen partially covering her right arm with a part of the border hanging over the arm of the chair. Her right hand is in her lap. The plain background is lighter at the right.

Story's first wife, Mary Oliver, died in June 1805, shortly after their marriage. Sarah and Joseph had seven children, though only two, Mary and William Wetmore Story, survived to adulthood. Their son became a noted poet and sculptor, his bust of his father is in the entrance to the Harvard Law School Library.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The random monthly pick: Mr. Joseph Story, following his best principles, sets the country more firmly on a tragic path

Joseph Story by Gilbert Stuart, Boston 1819

From Lawrence Park:
Joseph Story 1779-1845
Joseph Story was a son of Doctor Elisha and Mehitabel (Pedrick) Story of Marblehead, Massachusetts. He graduated from Harvard University in 1798 and in 1821 received the degree of L.L.D. From 1818 to 1825 he was an overseer of Harvard, and from 1829 to 1845 was Dane Professor of Law. He was a member of the American Philosophical Society, the Massachusetts Historical Society and a Fellow of the American Academy. In 1808 he was a member of the Congress, and from 1811 to his death a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. He married in 1808 Sarah Waldo Wetmore of Salem, Massachusetts, and their son, William Wetmore Story (1819-1895), was the well-known sculptor.

This month’s random pick is a particularly interesting one as it ties in well to the post on Captain Samuel Meeker (father of the sitter click here) who placed an add in the Weekly Advertiser (Philadelphia), for a runaway slave in the year 1763.
Then again, what small percentage of people in those times did this issue not touch?

Paid slavecatchers crossed state borders, used force and violence to capture runaway slaves, sometimes nabbing freed slaves as well. Federal law sanctioned the capturing & return of fugitives by the Fugitive Slave Acts of 1793, and later in 1850 these laws were reinforced. Increasingly the free states enacted laws to counter these federal laws; “personal-liberty laws” entitled slaves to a jury trial and the ‘underground railroad’ grew in opposition. By the 1840s slavery had become a national issue with passions raging hot on both sides, pitting slave states/owners against the non-slave states/abolitionists. It was only a matter of time before the consitutional laws, providing legal status to the capturing of slaves, ran head-on into state laws with the aim of protecting freed slaves.

On April 1 1837, Edward Prigg led an assault and abduction of a black woman named Margaret Morgan and her children. She had moved in 1832 from Maryland to Pennsylvania, in Maryland she had lived in freedom but had not been formally emancipated. The heirs of her former owner John Ashmore decided to claim her as a slave, and hired slavecatcher Prigg. But Pennsylvania had laws stating No negro or mulatto slave ...shall be removed out of this state, with the design and intention that the place of abode or residence of such slave or servant shall be thereby altered or changed and Prigg was arrested under kidnapping charges. Prigg pleaded not guilty, and argued that he had been duly appointed by John Ashmore to arrest and return Morgan to her owners in Maryland. However, in a ruling on May 22 1839, the Court of Quarter Sessions of York County convicted him. Prigg appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on the grounds that the Pennsylvania law was not able to supersede federal law.

In 1842, US Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story wrote and issued the majority opinion in the case of Prigg v. Pennsylvania. It was a landmark decision in which the court upheld fugitive slave recaption as an historically necessary constitutional provision that had to be protected at all costs, even in the face of contradictive state law (ie reversed Prigg's conviction). Story was opposed to slavery on moral as well as policy grounds (in The Amistad 1841, he freed the Africans who had been sold into slavery by a narrow reading of the treaty with Spain), but tragically he was also firmly convinced of the primacy and importance of upholding the Constitution, the Law of the Land. The decision was crucial because it announced that slavery was a national issue that could not be challenged by state action, and that slavery was woven into the Constitution. The decision caused a powder-keg explosion and rippled across the country, eventually cascading along with other motivating forces... into civil war. Story was the Court's most aggressive champion of federal jurisdiction, and was most successful in expanding federal jurisdiction in the areas of maritime and commercial law. But this controversial case led to personal attacks and a professional bruising, ultimately tarnishing his legacy. Story served on the Supreme Court for thirty-three years. He died on September 10, 1845, at the age of sixty-five.

Portrait of Joseph Story by George P. A. Healy
from the Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

Supreme Court History Profile:
JOSEPH STORY was born on September 18, 1779, in Marblehead, Massachusetts. He was graduated from Harvard College in 1798. Story read law in the offices of two Marblehead attorneys and was admitted to the bar in 1801. He established a law practice in Salem, Massachusetts. In 1805, Story served one term in the Massachusetts Legislature, and in 1808 he was elected to the United States House of Representatives. After one term, he returned to the Massachusetts Lower House, and in 1811 he was elected Speaker. On November 15, 1811, President James Madison nominated Story to the Supreme Court of the United States. The Senate confirmed the appointment on November 18, 1811. At the age of thirty-two, Story was the youngest person ever appointed to the Supreme Court. While on the Supreme Court, Story served as a delegate to the Massachusetts Constitutional Convention of 1820 and was a Professor of Law at Harvard, where he wrote a series of nine commentaries on the law, each of which was published in several editions.

The truely sad ending to this tale of misplaced notions of best principles, Morgan and her children were subsequently sold to slave traders and disappeared from the historical record.

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