THE WORLD OF SAMUEL MEEKER, MERCHANT OF PHILADELPHIA, AND GILBERT STUART, AMERICAN PORTRAIT ARTIST

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Stuart was obliged to include Samuel Meeker's hand!

In the last post I quoted from a letter written by famed academic Reverend Horace Holley to his wife; who, knowing Stuart personally as well as being familiar with his style of work, commented: "He is the best portrait painter in our country, and probably not inferior, in regard to the face, to any artist in the world. But he paints hands, limbs, and drapery badly. [He spends the force of his genius on the characteristic expression of the countenance, and cares little for the other parts of the picture.]" Holley was describing his encounter with the Monroes at the White House (1817), and all were discussing Stuart's commission for Jame's Monroe's portrait. (The President's hands were not included.)


One does not have to look far to find evidence of the truth of the Reverend’s words. Here I provide detail of Meeker’s hand. Note the rather broad stokes and unrefined treatment. Meeker holds some papers~ this certainly indicates Meeker’s wish that the portrait indicate his prominent position as a ‘merchant’. Logs, bookkeeping, manifests etc were not done ‘on the computer’, but written out by hand often in large ledger books. Thus Stuart was obliged to paint Meeker’s hand.





President Monroe's portrait just below, no hands. Meeker's first cousin and a business partner (click here) William Meeker, no hands. (W. Meeker was posted in Liverpool, and died on a sea voyage back to New Orleans in 1812.)




1 comment:

scott davidson said...

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