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...

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