Sunday, December 9, 2012

A lovely portrait comes on the market; Elizabeth Lady Forbes by the esteemed Joshua Reynolds

At Christie's Old Master British Paintings Evening Sale on Dec 4 in London, a portrait of Elizabeth Lady Forbes was sold by a private owner. All information contained here regarding the portrait, the image of the portrait and lot information, is courtesy of Christie's.

Portrait of Elizabeth, Lady Forbes (c. 1750-1802), half-length, in a white dress and a pink mantle, with feathers, ribbons and pearls in her hair

(Information provided by Christie's) This portrait of Lady Forbes has not been publicly exhibited since 1859 and has never previously been offered at auction, having descended in the sitter's family to the present owners.The eldest daughter of Sir James Hay M.D., Bt., of Haystoun, Peeblesshire, Elizabeth married the influential Edinburgh banker, Sir William Forbes, 6th Bt. of Monymusk (1739-1806), in 1770. Forbes was only four when he inherited the baronetcy, and later succeeded to the title and arms of Pitsligo in 1781, but declined the offer by Pitt of an Irish peerage in 1799 and also refused parliamentary seats. Articled to Coutts bank in Edinburgh at the age of fifteen, Forbes forged a career as one of the leading bankers of his age in Scotland, always paying tribute to the Coutts family as the architects of his success. ... A man of considerable wealth, Forbes was also a great philanthropist...
Forbes commissioned Reynolds to paint this arresting portrait of his wife, together with a portrait of himself, in circa 1775-6 (D. Mannings, Sir Joshua Reynolds: A Complete Catalogue of His Paintings, New Haven and London, 2000, I, p. 199, no. 657; II, fig. 1182). Untraced since it was exhibited in 1859, this painting was not included in the catalogue raisonné of the artist's work published by David Mannings in 2000. However, Professor Mannings and Martin Postle have independently confirmed the attribution and dated this portrait to circa 1775-6, the former on the basis of photographs and the latter on first-hand inspection of the painting. 

Gilbert Stuart studied under Benjamin West when he lived in London, but also took courses from Joshua Reynolds.  Reynolds was surely an inspiration to Stuart.

bottom J. Reynolds by Gilbert Stuart

From Lawrence Park (on Stuart's portrait of Reynolds) 

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.

The portrait of Lady Forbes sold for $339,901.00.  According to the Wall St J Dec 8-9 2012 some works by Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony Van Dyck and Tintoretto were 'snubbed.'  I am sorry to say that I was not the one who was able to purchase this lovely portrait, the buyer remains unidentified.  I hope that the portrait is able to be shown to the public in the future, for it is stunning.  It is possible to see Reynolds' influence on Stuart's portrait style.  I wonder how the owner, supposedly a descendant, could part with it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

a wealthy Boston merchant provides a lavish lifestyle for his daughter Hepzibah, aka Madame Swan; a Lovely Portrait by Gilbert Stuart

Hepzibah Clark Swan ca.1806
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

from "Gilbert Stuart“ (Metropolitan Museum of Art) By Carrie Reborra Barratt and Ellen Miles 2004 p296
Hepzibah Clark Swan (1757-1825) turned heads, it seems, at home in Boston and abroad.  She was noticed on the streets of London in the 1790s, “arrayed in all the elegance of the French capital, and attracting every eye by her grace and fancied resemblance to the ill-fated Marie Antoinette, daintily attired, with a self-possession and assurance which her companions vainly endeavored to acquire...” (Martha Amory, The Domestic and Artistic Life of John Singleton Copely, pub 1882).  Mrs Swan was indeed conspicuous, in society, in politics, and in the lives of a number of men, including Gilbert Stuart, who had her to thank for plum commissions, countless connections, and even a place to live.  Before the age of twenty, she had inherited vast fortunes from her father, the merchant Barnabas Clark*, and from a close family friend William Dennie, giving her the wherewithal to live in the matter to which she was not merely accustomed but, some would say, destined.  Cosmopolitan and intelligent, a devoted friend and watchful parent, Madame Swan—as she was known—was charismatic, not least because of her money but in good measure because of her charm.

*Barnabas Clark* father of Hepzibah, wealthy merchant, who provided a lavish lifestyle for his daughter----(Merchants ie Samuel Meeker were considered men of honor since their word needed to be trusted.  Samuel Meeker also bought and sold items shipped to and from England.)
Occupation: 1740, Shipmaster; sailing from Boston to London and the Provinces
The Boston Gazette of May 15, 1768, has the following: Imported in the London Packet, Capt. Calef, from London, and to be sold by Barnabas Clarke at his store on Treats Wharf, Boston, near the market at the lowest rates: --Bohen Tea by the chest or less quantity; Pepper by the bag or ditto; Spices of all kinds; Best Durham Mustard by the box; Russia, English and Ravens Duck; Gun powder by the cask. Also Kippen's Snuff by the cask; best French Indigo; Pimento; Ground and Race Ginger; Muscovado Sugar; Philadelphia Flour; Bar Iron;Iron Hoops; Anchors."

From Lawrence Park:
She was Hepzibah Clark, daughter of Barnabas and Hepzibah (Barrett) Clark, and married in 1776 James Swan.
Boston, c 1807. She is shown at half-length, three-quarters left, seated on an Empire sofa upholstered in brilliant crimson velvet, with her hazel eyes directed to the spectator.  Her very dark reddish-brown hair is in ringlets on her forehead and in front of her ears.  Her complexion is ruddy, with high color on her cheeks.  She wears a high-waisted black velvet grown, cut low and square in the neck, with short sleeves, the sleeves and neck of the dress being trimmed with white pointed lace, that on the sleeves being double with the points above and below.  A white lace scarf rests on top of her head, and falling over her right shoulder, lies on her lap, and entirely conceals the right arm and hand.  The left forearm rests upon the arm of the sofa, the hand holding the scarf and the concealed right hand.  A small pin with a garnet shows at the waist.  The background is plain and of a grayish-olive.


from Gilbert Stuart: “...Aided by his wife’s fortune, he [husband James Swan] became perhaps the most successful and notorious player in international commerce during the postwar era.  The Swans shared a passion for frivolous and slightly scandalous entertainments, and with their friends ...founded a private social club for card playing and dancing...  In general, the Swans' deepest passion was for things French, which they parlayed into not only a lavish way of life, but also a business..........” p 298

NEXT more on the Swans, Stuart portrait of James Swan...& his fate in prison...

Monday, October 15, 2012

George Washington portrait: an authentic Gilbert Stuart? & a Stuart doggie and his collar


Hello - I was wondering if you could help me out here. I just purchased this oil painting of George Washington and the seller did not know who the artist was. In fact, neither did I until I looked closely at the signature. From my research Gilbert Stuart did not sign his artwork which leads me to believe this is not authentic. However, from what I can tell I do know the painting is a true oil painting and not a print and it is very old. The owner said he got it from an estate sale and estimated it from 1870-1890. The canvas on the back is very old and brown from age.

My questions are: could this be a Gilbert Stuart? I highly doubt, but if it's not what's more interesting is why would someone sign his name to pass it off? the painting is of very good quality so I assume the original artist was someone who was very talented too. I just find it very interesting how many hands this could have passed through with either knowing it was unauthentic or who's put the signature there etc. Were his paintings counterfeit a lot in the late 1800's? Sorry I am rambling, just curious to understand this painting more...


Hello Tony~Thanks for your message, when I have a bit more time I will more closely inspect (try to enlarge) your graphics. 
But a few points here:
My portrait of Meeker was painted in 1803 when Stuart was in his 40s.  He was born in 1755, so Stuart's working years were much previous to the dates of 1870-1890 which were suggested by the previous owner of your painting (which shows that he knew nothing about Stuart).
Stuart painted 75 head and shoulder replicas of his Athenaeum portrait of Washington (the famous portraits have names), download this portrait and compare it to your image....if there are differences this would be the major clue/evidence that the work is not by Stuart.  Stuart was absolutely meticulous about nailing the image of the sitter.
Go to the portrait of George Thomas John Nugent and look at this portrait closely, for this is one of the portraits that Stuart signed.  If he did sign a portrait, it was often in a whimsical way so his signature on this portrait was on the dog's collar. Here you can see an authentic signature, with the G formed in a different way, your signature has no semblance to the authentic one...most likely your portrait artist's own whimsical idea!
But thanks for sending the graphics~
Again I am not an expert ie decorated with doctorate title~however I think your doubts were in the right direction.  As for counterfeiting, one can be sure, esp in the 1800s when memories of Stuart's fame were even more pronounced and the style more coveted, that this was prevalent.


Gilbert Stuart's portrait of George Thomas John Nugent 1789-90
signed on the dog's collar G. Stuart
UCLA Hammer Museum, LA:
The Armand Hammer Collection, Gift of the Armand Hammer Foundation

detail collar on the cutie dog

Monday, September 17, 2012

Is this portrait by Gilbert Stuart?


I saw your blog online, and was hoping you might help me out. We have a watercolor portrait that my mother-in-law said was a Gilbert Stuart, purchased in 1965 in an antique store in the Ozark Mountains. It measures 15-1/2” wide x 20”, unsigned. Any guidance from you would be deeply appreciated.

Thank you, Irene


Dear Irene,

Thanks for your note! The portrait does not have the hallmarks of a Stuart portrait... Most importantly, Stuart painted so close to reality that the sitter could expect something akin to a photograph. Portraits of women were not idealized, the backgrounds were often similar to the portraits of men (red curtain, bit of sky), accents such as gauzy flowers adorning the canvas were not something he indulged in. This portrait just does not look like a Stuart to me, from looking at the graphic. There is nothing about it, that makes me think...maybe! Stuart has a certain type of strong swish to his accents, the sitters do not appear in a fog of sweetness, but as they appear in reality~ The clothing also does not strike me as being from the period from when Stuart was working. The face was the most important aspect of a Stuart painting so that often the rest of the portrait is nondescript, essentially, in comparison to the face. There is no differentiation in this portrait between the quality & style of the face, and the rest of the portrait....This looks to be a portrait whose style was at the direction of the sitter, not a sitter who was obliged to accept the direction/style of the master artist (which was the way Stuart worked, no woman could ask for flattery in her portrait--he was known to become very angry if such a thing happened). This is, simply, not his style. I am about 97% sure that it is not a Stuart, without seeing the portrait firsthand.

I hope this helps. Can I post your graphic and query on my blog? I would not need to include your name.

Thank you again, Beth


Dear Beth,

Thank you very much for your reply. Disappointing news, of course, but this is the type of information I was looking for, so I very much appreciate your thoughtful comments.Yes, by all means, you may use the image and anything else here.



Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Sally follows Matilda's example; Another young American, Sally McKean weds the successor of the Marquis Yrujo and enters European nobility

The year is 1804, Sarah [Sally] is dressed in the fashionable mode of the time inspired by the famed Empress Josephine of France. Gauzy empire-waisted low cut dress, sleeves and neckline draped with delicate pearls and showing much skin, hair up to expose the delicate slope of the neck...a perfect replica of the grace and beauty embodied by Josephine Bonaparte (who’s beauty was acknowledged by all who saw her, marred only slightly by her teeth.) Indeed Sally bears a similar physical appearance to Josephine.

In the last post we read about the young (16yrs) American girl Matilda Stoughton, who married the minor Spanish attache’ Josef de Jaudenes y Nebot (1794) out of love and visions of diplomatic glory, while he entertained the pleasing notion of becoming the permanent envoy of Spain in America through the marriage to the American. Alas he was caught in a bribery scandal, the couple was sent home to Spain, and Jaudenes was replaced by Yrujo who had arrived from Spain in 1796. Jaudenes introduced the Spanish diplomat to Thomas McKean, Pennsylvania’s chief justice and later governor.
It is possible that they met that year at a dinner party in Philadelphia:
“Among the first to arive was Chief Justice McKean,accompanied by his lovely daughter, Miss Sally McKean. Miss McKean had many admirers, but her heart was still her own...The next to arrive was Senor Don Carlos Martinez de Yrujo, a stranger to almost all the guests. He spoke with ease, but with a foreign accent, and was soon lost in amazement at the grace and beauty of Miss McKean.” [Anne Hollingsworth Wharton, Salons Colonial and Republican(Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1900) p 154]

Later after the government moved to Washington:“Philadelphia beauty and grace were well represented in Washington during Mr. Jefferson’s administration by the wives of the British and Spanish ministers....the dark, dreamy eyes of the Marchioness Yrujo, which look forth from her portrait by Stuart, seem to proclaim her more truly a child of the South than the blue eyes and blond coloring of her Spanish husband. This young woman, as Sally McKean, had been an intimate friend of Mrs. Madison and her sister Anna Payne, and later in the diplomatic circle of the capital they renewed their acquaintance." [Anne Hollingsworth Wharton, Social Life in the EarlyRepublic (Williamstown, Ma: first pub. 1902; 1970 edition) p 115]

Yrujo was created a Marquis in 1803, thus through the marriage in 1804 Sally entered European nobility and became Marchioness de Casa Yrujo. Yrujo’s career in Washington was not much more successful than Jaudenes, although possibly more ethical. He disputed the egalitarianism of the Jefferson administration, insisting on formal protocol of the entry and proper seating of diplomats and their wives at official dinners. He was strongly at odds with the administration on the Louisiana Purchase. The definant minister returned to Philadelphia 1805 and left to return to Spain in 1808.

Sarah McKean, Marquesa de Casa Yrujo
1804, Washington
collection Mr. and Mrs. Thomas R. McKean

Empress Josephine Bonaparte
by Pierre-Paul Prud'hon 1805

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The power of Spain in America prompts Matilda and Josef to engage in matrimony and have their portraits done by Stuart in full pomp, but the glory did not last long.

In the last post the story of Matilda Stoughton was told, a young American girl of 16 who most likely married her minor Spanish attache’ Josef de Jaudenes y Nebot (1794) out of love, whereas he most likely married her to advance his career, perhaps entertaining the pleasing notion of becoming the permanent envoy of Spain in America. Josef surely felt he had made a catch, some considered Matilda a beauty, but her father’s position for thirty years as the Spanish Consul in Boston might have been the persuading factor in the match. One can also imagine that a 16 year old would be a willful young lady, if in love....

America at the time was under the thumb of Spain in many ways; until 1795 Spain was in control of navigation of the Mississippi River and transport through the port of New Orleans. The Spanish from 1762 were the owners of the vast region known as the Louisiana territory, stretching from the Mississippi River to the beginning of the Rocky Mountains (taken back by Napoleon in 1800). Spanish currency, a gold coin called the pistole, was commonly in use. Matilda surely had her father’s eager consent to marry this young diplomat from her father’s native homeland, and the father must have thought that Josef had every prospect of rising to the elite of the social/political set. Josef’s outfit in the Stuart portrait, a dark blue velvet coat over scarlet waistcoat and breeches and threaded profusely with silver embroidery, matching in opulence Matilda’s billowing confection of silks and diamonds, boasts of wealth and aristocracy. Yet within the two years, it is suggested that Josef was involved in some type of corruption, and the brilliant couple was sent back in disgrace to Spain, living out the rest of their lives at the family’s ancestral estate, a vineyard. They live on in their sumptuous portraits.

 New York 1794; Matilda and Josef de Jaudenes y Nebot 
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Monthly pick: Matilda Stoughton [de Jaudenes y Nebot] has big dreams and marries a minor Spanish attaché; the portrait by Gilbert Stuart

1794 Matilda in silks, diamonds, pearls, & snowflake piochas (hairpins) 
At age 16, in 1794, Matilda Stoughton was the dutiful daughter and married a man of great prospects; or so it was thought at the time.  Officially recognizing the United States government under George Washington in Philadelphia, Charles IV of Spain sent an ambassador with two trade attachés, one of which was Josef de Jaudenes y Nebot.  The two trade attachés carried on negotiations with regard to Spanish Louisiana, navigation on the Mississippi river, trade with Cuba, amongst other issues. [Spanish and U.S. negotiators concluded the Treaty of San Lorenzo, also known as Pinckney’s Treaty, on October 27, 1795. The treaty was an important diplomatic success for the United States. It resolved territorial disputes between the two countries and granted American ships the right to free navigation of the Mississippi River as well as duty-free transport through the port of New Orleans, then under Spanish control. Prior to the treaty, the western and southern borders of the United States had been a source of tension between Spain and the United States.]
 Marrying the Spanish Consul’s daughter allowed Josef de Jaudenes y Nebot to stay in the United States where he surely happily envisioned being able to stay as a permanently ensconced envoy of Spain (like his father-in-law).  But by 1796, charged with corruption, he was sent back home where he returned to his family’s ancestral estate, a vineyard near Palma, Majorca.  Matilda had surely imagined a more illustrious outcome of the marriage.  But at least the two had their Stuart portraits which were commissioned for the occasion of their wedding.  Which is why the two are remembered today. 

Louisa Carolina Matilda Stoughton was the second daughter of Don Juan (John) Stoughton who, for thirty years previous to his death in 1820 in his 76th year, was the Spanish Consul in Boston.  He was prominent in the establishment of the first Roman Catholic Cathedral in the United States, erected in Boston. Esther Fletcher, whose death in 1789 is noticed in a contemporary Boston newspaper, and who was the mother of his daughter Louisa, was either Stoughton’s first or second wife.  Louisa Carolina Matilda was well known in Boston, in her youth, for her beauty.  In 1794 she married Don Josef de Jaudenes y Nebot.

New York, 1794. ....Her dress is of white flowered silk, finished at the neck with a dainty fichu edged with lace.  Her luxuriant hair is powdered and a coronet-shaped headdress with two tall feathers is set on top of her head in the center.  Nestling in her hair, at the base of the headdress, are clusters of jewels.  Jewels are in her ears, around her neck, on her dress, and at her wrists.  By her side is a table, with a red velevet cover, on which are two leather-bound books, one open as though she had been reading.  Her hands are in her lap and she holds a closed fan.  A brownish-pink curtain is draped in the background, showing clouds and a sky of blue and pink at the right. In the upper left-hand corner under a coat of arms is the following inscription: “Dona Matilde Stoughton de Jaudenes-Esposa de Don Josef de Jaudenes y Nebot Comisario Ordenador de Los Reales Exercitos de Su Magestad Catholica y su Ministro Embiado cerca de los Estados Unidos de America.  Nacio en la Ciudad de Nueva-York en los Estados Unidos el 11 de Enero de 1778.”


The two were married in New York, and there Josef commissioned their two portraits to be done by Stuart.  Was he in love, or did he only wish to advance his career? “Scholars have described him as a “dandy and spendthrift,” a “swarthy Spanish provocateur,” “arrogant,” “slippery,” “shifty,” and even “cruel.”   
(From the Met book Gilbert Stuart [from Albert Ten Eyck Gardner, “Fragment of a Lost Monument,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s.6 March 1948, p 190] p 125), 

Next; Josef's portrait.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Present day descendants of Phoebe Meeker (twin of Samuel)

As mentioned before, Samuel gifted his Stuart portrait to twin sister Phoebe, most likely on their 40ieth birthday in 1803 (they were born in NJ Westfields in 1763).  Most certainly there was a lavish celebration at Samuel's country estate known as Fountain Green (click here for a post on the villa-or go to the fixed labels on the right for all posts on Samuel's estate near Philadelphia along the Schuylkill river).  

Phoebe married Job Brookfield, and the Meeker name was gone. Their daughter Mary married a Martin and the Brookfield name was gone.  Other marriages by women and the name changed from Martin (see Carrie Martin m. Cory in the post before this or click here), to Cory (see fixed labels on right for Cory), then Ahrens (my mom is Carolyn Cory now 84 who married my dad John Ahrens).  Here is a photo of this generation of Ahrens (with the exception of my daughter Lily K. in the red skirt when I married Willy Kley, a prof of astrophysics in Germany.)  The Meeker twins, Samuel and Phoebe would be proud of this batch of descendants.  Taken a few months ago.
Samuel had no direct descendants as his son passed away at a young age. Click here or scroll down 2 posts.  His son Samuel Hampton Meeker b. 1796 died May 21 1822.  Exactly 190 years ago today. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Dr. Ben Cory's son Lewis marries Carrie Martin from the Westfields NJ & ...a remarkable genetic similarity to the Stuart portrait!

The text above "The Cory Brothers Modernized Medicine in SC County" (written by me) was just recently published in the March/April medical Bulletin of the Santa Clara County and Monterey County Medical Association (click on it for a bigger view). The brothers Drs Ben and Jack were instrumental in developing public health early on in Santa Clara county California (aka silicon valley.)  Dr. Ben Cory's son Lewis (b. 1861 San Jose California) was the first lawyer in Fresno Ca, he married Carrie Martin  (b. 1862 Rahway NJ) pictured above, who grew up in the Westfields New Jersey. Carrie is the gt gt grandaughter of Phoebe Meeker who was gifted the Stuart portait of her twin brother Samuel Meeker on their 40ieth birthday. Carrie eventually inherited the portrait and brought it to Fresno California where she and Lewis raised their family including son Ben Cory my grandfather. Notice the genetic similarities between Samuel in the portrait and the photo-portrait of Carrie.  Stunning.

Carrie is the daughter-in-law of Dr. Ben Cory, and my gt grandmother. More on Carrie and her family in the next post!
~click here for the provenance of the portrait~ 

Saturday, March 31, 2012

the merchant banker Samuel Meeker and his own tragedy, his son

With my interest in economics alongside my ever-ongoing and abiding interest in the merchant Samuel Meeker, I have started to read a book "The House of Morgan" by Ron Chernow. He makes the point that often business was passed to the sons who were groomed for the takeover.  It took years to build up trust, and this trust was built upon and continued by future generations.

He writes: "Since merchant bankers financed foreign trade, their bills had to be honored on sight in distant places, so their names had to inspire instant trust."

I think this concept works very well in Samuel Meeker's case; does not his portrait radiate trust? We know that Meeker engaged in the trade of goods, sending goods to Liverpool where his first cousin William was the agent, who would arrange for sale and use the profits to buy goods and ship items back to Philadelphia. It can be sure that Meeker, Denman & Co did not receive loans for these business activities, but funded them on their own, plowing back growing profits into the business.
Samuel Meeker played a major role in the creation of the new elite merchant class in the city of Philadelphia, by now established as an important financial and cultural center. All evidence points to the man being a talented, motivated and successful participant and opportunist.  Samuel would have definitely been grooming his young son to take over his successful business.

The accounting ledgers of the Morrises, a prominent Philadelphia family contain accounts showing Meeker conducting trade in New Orleans, Ohio, and Kentucky, besides the overseas trade.Besides business and banking, Meeker became involved in marine insurance which played a crucial role in supporting the rapidly expanding trade of the American colonies throughout the eighteenth century. In the early years merchants had obtained insurance in London, but by the time Samuel Meeker arrived in Philadelphia, the city was the center for the writing of insurance against losses at sea from all causes and to a lesser degree losses on land by fire. The Napoleonic wars caused a great increase in demand for marine insurance. Samuel Meeker became actively involved in the booming, but risky, insurance business. About 1802 Messrs. Welsh, Fitzsimons, Dutihl, Bolen, & Meeker established a new insurance company, The Delaware Insurance Company of Philadelpha. Samuel was also on the Board of Directors of the Insurance Company of North America.

From all that I have found, I have determined that Samuel only had one son, who died at age 26. I don't know how he died, but hope to find out more.  It surely was a tragedy in his life. "Samuel's wife was Jane (born in 1763; married on March 3, 1792; died on July 1, 1845, aged 82 years), daughter of Jonathan Hampton. Her son Samuel Hampton Meeker, was born in 1796, and died on Tuesday, May 21, 1822, aged 26 years. He was named after Samuel Hampton, who, in 1785, was a private in the Third Company, Second Battalion, Philadelphia City Associators, Colonel James Read." This excerpt is from "The Second Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry" an article by W.A. Newman Dorland, 1903. To remind new readers, I am descended from Phoebe, Samuel's twin sister, to whom the portrait was gifted.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

the War of 1812 (two hundred years ago this year) & a Meeker perishes

Two hundred years ago, America declared war on Britain. The reasons were many...the wartime atmosphere in Europe (Napoleon was wreaking his havoc) led to British seizure of American ships, more often than not forcing American sailors into the British navy, and the severe restrictions imposed by the British on American trade with France... In June 1812 James Madison became the first U.S. president to ask Congress to declare war.
Samuel Meeker at this time was 49. For many years before the outbreak of the war, Samuel Meeker was engaged in the trade/wholesale/retail business; his second firm was located at #20 South Front Street in Philadelphia and was called Meeker Denman & Co. comprising Samuel himself, his first cousin William Meeker, and brother-in-law Samuel Denman.
click on image below for a larger view
~The authenticity of Samuel Meeker as a work by Gilbert Stuart was further confirmed when I learned that his cousin William’s portrait was listed in the Lawrence Park volumes.~

William Meeker by Gilbert Stuart

[most likely c. 1803 as arrangement, hair, clothing are very similar to Samuel Meeker and the firm had received a large loan at this time ]The following information comes from an auction house, 2009;

PROVENANCE: From a fine Sudbury, MA home. CONDITION: Very good, restored, relined with inpainting. [In my opinion, the restorative touch-up work botched Stuart's portrait in a very major way. The portrait did not sell at auction.]

From Lawrence Park; William Meeker
“The present owner of this portrait was told at the time of its purchase that William Meeker was a member of the London firm of Meeker & Denman, shipping agents, and that he died en route to New Orleans in 1812. [slightly inaccurate, the firm was out of Philadelphia]
Canvas 28 x 23 inches.Bust, half-way to the right, with his light brown eyes directed to the spectator. His brown hair is brushed back, with curls in the neck, and tied with a black queue bow. He wears a dark blue, or blue-black, coat with small brass buttons; a very high white neckcloth and a ruffled shirt, with a bit of a white waistcoat showing. His complexion is ruddy and he wears small side-whiskers. The background is plain, of greenish-olive tones, becoming warm brown in the lower right corner.

New Orleans had been aquired with the Louisiana Purchase 9 years before, was an important and principal port since the American Revolution for importing and exporting—imported goods were warehoused and then distributed up the vast Mississippi river. William was the agent in England for the firm, selling goods sent from Philadelphia and purchasing items to be shipped back. As he died at sea en route to New Orleans in 1812, one might surmise that perhaps he was returning home with one of his shipments, and perished in a skirmish at sea. The region was targeted by the British and was attacked in a final battle in 1815, although a peace treaty was already in place. William Meeker never married.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Gibby’s talent for music and his friend Ben

Benjamin Waterhouse by Gilbert Stuart 1775

IN the last entry Gibby was described as being better known in his youth as a superbly talented organist. He also composed music. A very close friend of his early days, Benjamin Waterhouse, later physician and professor at Harvard Medical School, described a get-together: “he attempted to enrapture me, by a newly studied classical composition. I exerted all the kind attention I could muster up for the occasion, until his sharp eye detected by my physiognomy, that I did not much relish it. He coloured, sprang up in a rage, and striding back and forth the floor, vociferated, ‘you have no more taste for music than a jack-ass! and it is all owing to your stupid quaker education.’ To which I replied, ‘tis very likely, Gibby, and that education has led me to relish silence more than all the passionate noise uttered from instrumental or vocal organs.’ Stuart’s reply to this, with a laugh, was, ‘a good hit, Ben!—but really I wish you had more taste for music.’ ‘I wish so too, Stuart,’ said his friend,’but I am determined not to admire more in a picture than what I acutally see within its frame; nor affect raptures for music I do not feel.’ "

Waterhouse left for England early 1775 to study medicine. The revolutionary war negatively impacting the business of portraiture, Stuart left himself for London, where he arrived with few funds in November of the same year. Waterhouse had already gone to Edinburgh to further his studies thus was not in a position to help out. Stuart took cheap lodgings, and found a position as church organist.

Dr. Waterhouse observed that “Stuart’s acknowledged advancement in the theory and practice of music was a fresh evidence of his vigorous intellect and various talents, which constitutes genius. He certainly had that peculiar structure of the brain or mind which gives an aptitude to excel in every thing to which he chose to direct his strong faculties.” p 168-170 History of the Rise and Progress of The Arts of Design in the United States (listed on the right.)

Dr. Waterhouse is also well known for being the first doctor to test the smallpox vaccine in the United States.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Stuart's earliest known painting (age 14); and lil' ms Daisy joins my household

Stuart's earliest known painting; two spaniels belonging to Dr. William Hunter

The Hunter Dogs ca. 1769

The Preservation Society of Newport County, Newport, R.I.

The following, below, is quoted from Gilbert Stuart by Barratt and Miles (see info on right) p 13

“Stuart learned to sketch faces and caricatures from an African slave, Neptune Thurston, and had in common with his best friend, Benjamin Waterhouse, a talent for drawing. He was better known in his youth as a superbly talented organist, the prize pupil of Trinity Church organist John Knoechel. Indeed, whenever and wherever in need, Stuart would seek employment at a local church before he would solicit commissions for portraits.
Stuart’s earliest known painting dates from about 1769 and portrays two spaniels belonging to Dr. William Hunter, nestling under a Townsend-Goddard side table. That year, Hunter had two painters in his employ; the 13-year-old Stuart and the recently arrived Aberdeen artist Cosmo Alexander (1724-1772)....”

AND...quoted from The Life and Works of Gilbert Stuart by George Mason p4
“No portfolio of Stuart’s early drawings has been preserved, for he had no portfolio. No record has been made of his early efforts—no record could be made,--for the first brush of a sleeve, the first passing shower, effaced what he had sketched with chalk or charcoal, on a fence, a slab, or a tail-board.” & p 5 “The earliest product of his pencil, so far as is known, is a picture owned by Thomas R. Hunter, Esq., of Newport, R.I., a couple of Spanish dogs. The following is the history of the picture, which has been carefully preserved;Dr. William Hunter, who came to America in 1752, had attained to a high position in his profession, and practiced medicine over a wide circuit of the country, having Newport for its centre. During a professional visit at the house of Gilbert Stuart, he asked Mrs. Stuart who made all the drawings in chalk and charcoal on the sides of the barn. She replied by pointing to her son, with whom the Doctor at once entered into conversation. Before leaving, the Doctor made the lad promise (the boy’s mother having given her consent) that he would come to Newport on election day and make him a visit. The boy was true to his engagement, and the Doctor, interested in the young sketcher, gave him brushes and colors, and bade him paint a picture of the two dogs that were lying on the floor under a table. Stuart at once entered upon the work, and while engaged in painting the picture, remained a guest in the house of Dr. Hunter."

Below is lil ms Daisy, she joined my household about 3 weeks ago. Lots of work! But as cute as the spaniels...!

I'm going to enter Daisy into the next Westminster Kennel Club dog show!

(competeing as a "Cheagle" ~a Beagle and a Chihuahua~:)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

my most visited post; Dolly Madison is ushered to the White House door

“Stuart is all the rage…”

Dolly, widowed at age 25 with two children upon the sudden death of her first husband from the yellow fever epidemic which swept through the new capital of the United States, met 38 yr old James Madison in Philadelphia in 1794 after having moved there to be with her Quaker family. They were married soon afterwards.

Her parents were strict members of the “Society of Friends”. The young Dolly: “… was wondrously fair. Her mother, who would not permit her to wear jewels, taught her to take care of her complexion. She was sent to school with long gloves on her hands and arms, a close sunbonnet and a white linen mask on her face; in fact it is plain to see that in many ways great attention was bestowed upon the outward as well as the inward graces of the young Friend.” (Life and Letters of Dolly Madison by A. C. Clark, W F Roberts Co, Washington DC 1914; p 13, a quote by Harriet T. Upton.) Just before meeting with Madison; she wrote her friend Mrs. Lee, saying, “Dear friend, thou must come to me. Aaron Burr says that the ‘great little Madison’ has asked to be brought to see me this evening.” She was dressed in a mulberry-colored satin, with a silk tulle kerchief over her neck, and on her head an exquisitely dainty little cap, from which an occasional uncropped curl would escape. In this first interview, at her own house, she captured the heart of the recluse book-worm, Madison… always thought to be an irreclaimable old bachelor.” (Memoirs and Letters of Dolly Madison by Dolley Madison, Lucia Beverly Cutts, Houghton, Mifflin &Co. Boston and NY, 1887, p 15)

From the Lawrence Park Volume:

Mrs James Madison 1768-1849

Dorothy Todd Payne was a daughter of John and Mary (Coles) Payne of North Carolina. She married, first, in 1786, John Todd (died 1789) of Philadelphia, and second, in 1794, James Madison (q.v.).

Philadelphia, early in 1804. Canvas, 30 x 25 in. Mrs. Madison, writing to her sister from Montpelier, June 3, 1804, says: "Stuart has taken an admirable likeness of Mr. Madison; both his and mine are finished." This half-length portrait shows Mrs. Madison seated, half-way to the left, in a crimson upholstered chair, with her hands folded in her lap, and her grayish-blue eyes directed to the spectator. Her dark brown hair is dressed in curls on her forehead and in front of her ears. She wears a low-necked, short-sleeved white dress, trimmed with an edging of lace and two rows of narrow gold ribbon around the neck and sleeves. A yellow gauze scarf is draped over her right arm and is brought around onto the left arm of the chair. Around her neck a gold chain is wound four times, and a small gold and topaz brooch is fastened to the front of her dress. A crimson curtain is draped in the background and to the left is a column on a parapet with a cloud-flecked sky in the distance. ...This portrait of Mrs. Madison was bought at public auction just after her death by her adopted daughter, Anna Payne, afterwards the wife of Doctor Causten. Mrs. Causten bequeathed it to her daughter Mary Carvallo Causten, wife of John Kunkel of Washington, DC. On November 6, 1899, the portrait was acquired by the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Does the General not exist?

This has NEVER happened to me before. My sleuthing has left me empty handed!!

A Gilbert Stuart painting of a male, in a fine red uniform, is up for auction at Christie's this coming January 26. If one is willing to shed a minimum of $25,000. one may offer up a bid; the price is determined to be somewhere between $25,000. to $35,000. This dashing warrior is named General R. Grenville.

But I can NOT find "General R. Grenville 1745-1823" anywhere. He is not listed in any known source (to me) of Stuart paintings including of course the Lawrence Park volumes and George Mason. I can not find him anywhere on the internet. What?? A General that can not be found...on the internet? How possible is that? Usually any individual that was painted by Stuart had mounds of money and connections, and should be able to be found!

Is there no frame on the canvas? No date is provided for when the portrait was done, nor location. All rather odd.

If any of my readers has some information, please send it on over. !! If you plan to submit an offer on this portrait, which seems to have in fact all the hallmarks of a Stuart, I would check with the experts first. The man has a fancy name, but may not be who one thinks he is. !! And certainly there are/were expert copiers out there, willing to pass off a fake Stuart, I would imagine. Why does the history of the painting begin c. 1946? And what also raises my suspicion is that there are no other 'Grenvilles' painted by the master. Yes my Meeker was not listed by Park or Mason, but there was a Stuart painting of William Meeker listed in Park. That, in addition to my Provenance (click here for the history of ownership of the Meeker painting) from day one (Samuel gifted his portrait to his twin sister Phoebe on their 40 birthday--well ok the birthday part is my theory), is ample proof that Samuel is the genuine thing. Also in the above portrait, there is an inscription in the lower left naming the sitter. That was not usual for Stuart to do, although perhaps someone else painted in the inscription at a later date.

There is a Providence of 'General R. Grenville 1745-1823' , but what is left out is significant. This information is courtesy of Christie's. As is the image of the portrait of the general above.

Provenance (quoted directly from Christie's)
Captain Richard Neville, Butleigh Court, Glastonbury; Christie's, London, 5 April 1946 lot 58 (380 gns. to Polak).with Leggatt Brothers, London, 1953, where purchased byDaniel H. Farr.Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 24 November 1965, lot 74 (£1400 to J. Maas).Vincent Price.with Sears, Roebuck and Co., Chicago, 1966, from whom purchased by the present owners. PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF DR. AND MRS. FRANCIS D. FOWLER

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