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

Monday, October 15, 2012

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


Elizabeth,

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...

Thanks,
Tony


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.

Elizabeth

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

1 comment:

Rouchswalwe said...

Woof woof! Great attention to detail!

 
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