Wednesday, December 4, 2013

An excellent portrait which the bird(s) had no proper regard for... Was Gilbert Stuart the artist? and other questions.

Marsha wrote me:
I got your information off the internet and I am hoping that you may be able to help me.  My family has a portrait that was painted long ago of a family member.  This painting was supposedly done by Gilbert Stuart (according to family documentation).  It is in need of restoration (original frame also) but we were wondering what we need to do to get it authenticated and repaired.  The damage is bird poo from a bird that got into the storage area.  The frame has been previously repaired but needs to be again.  I believe the family member was a Hamilton or a Stuart (no relation to Gilbert).  I do not have the documentation with me--my mother has it with her in Texas.  But if you can help I am sure I can obtain the information.  Thank you for trying!

Dear Marsha, first of all I extend my sympathy for the unfortunate damage caused by the birdie that the portrait has sustained! On the serious side, the portrait is truly excellent, by a very talented portrait artist. The artist aimed for a genuine likeness it seems, which was always a primary goal of Stuart's work.  There was never any embellishment to a woman's face, even if elderly.  Obviously to determine whether a work is by Stuart, the first step is to offer whatever documentation you have; what is the woman's name? Her birth and death date? In this way the Lawrence Park Volumes could be checked, to see if she or any other relatives are listed there.  Do you have a provenance (history of the ownership)?
Amusingly, the spots of birdie poo almost look like the flourishes of brilliant whites Stuart often used, for example to highlight the lace of a neck-cloth or of a woman's ribbon (see previous post.)  The frame indicates wealth. However although I think the portrait is excellent, I do not think it was by Gilbert Stuart. The accents are not right, the clothing looks to me to be from a slightly later time period, the style of painting does not conform to GS.  Now one thing I did with my GS portrait was take it to the de Young museum in San Francisco, where a couple of conservationists took some precious time out to not only admire 'the handsome guy' but also to subject it to ultraviolet light (taking an Impressionist painting off the easel).  This is a free service, at least by this museum, for people like you who think that they may have a valuable piece.  Such a service in fact is important, because there are SURELY significant pieces out there, and the owners may not know it.  Call your local museum and ask if they are interested in looking at your portrait and tell them what you know about it.
So see if you can find out from your mother what the woman's name is, and I will check the Park volumes and other sources to see if her family name pops up.  When you talk to (or email) the individuals at the museum, they can advise you as to restoration. And to all of my readers, please check the portraits in your attic to make sure they are protected from the critters!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Are these Gilbert Stuart portraits? & a comparison to Mrs. Yates

Pamela sent me an email with two images.
"See attached; I’m interested in hearing your thoughts. According to the family story passed down with the photos, the female portrait is of an American woman that was famous for being captured by the Indians. I think she either gave birth while in captivity, or shortly after she escaped.  My memory is not clear and I may do some family history research to see exactly who they are and how they relate. Let me know what you think."  Pamela

 Dear Pamela, it is my opinion that these two portraits are not done by the American master portrait painter Gilbert Stuart.  They do not seem to carry the hallmark excellence of a Stuart portrait; in addition to have no provenance history (history of ownership through the generations) or certain knowledge of who they are, is generally not a good basis to think that they are Stuarts!  Of course my family did not know that mine was a Stuart either, but it was known that the artist "was someone famous". And importantly, it is recorded that Stuart had painted another Meeker. Generally Stuart painted portraits of the rich and famous, mainly because they were the ones who could give him "bread", or in other words, pay good money for the portraits. What he charged at the time was what might be considered "extremely expensive"'--For example, collection of monies were taken up to commission Stuart portraits of George Washington.  He often knew the sitter, through elite social or family connections.  Always I tell my readers to keep in mind that portrait painting was very common as in this time period there was no other way to record a likeness.  Art, portrait painting, was taken up by one and all!    Here I have included the masterful portrait of Catherine Brass Yates by Stuart.

Compare the photographic quality and intensity, the naturalism of the Staurt portrait of this lady; she is about the same age as your portrait of the female.  The manipulation of the silver pigment, the different strategies for portraying the different materials! Husband Yates had an importing business, was a member of the New York State Chamber of Commerce.  He imported such things as flour sugar and rum--running a typical business triangle between NY, the West Indies and Britain. Catherine, daughter of a shoemaker, is dressed in precious fabrics, her sewing indicates that she was just as industrious as her husband.

So Pamela, write back when you have discovered more about the identity of the individuals in your portraits! I will do a follow-up story!

Catherine Brass Yates by Gilbert Start c.1793 National Gallery of Art

Monday, November 11, 2013

Meeker Coat of Arms

Taken from the booklet "The Meeker Family of early New Jersey" by Leroy J. Meeker 
Capitol Printing Co, Charleston, W.VA.1973


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Samuel Meeker now joins, officially, the history of American finance! A bold, energetic smart merchant plays a role in commerce at the turn of the century in early America.

The Magazine of the Museum of American Finance
(in association with the Smithsonian Institution)  

Issue 106/ Spring 2013

"To have one's portrait painted by the eminent American artist Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828) signaled arrival at the pinnacle of social and economic success.  Famously described by First Lady Dolley Madison as being "all the rage", the artist was celebrated for his superlative portraits of Presidents Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison and Monroe.  But who was Stuart subject Samuel Meeker, and how was he able to commisssion the foremost painter of his time?"
by Elizabeth Ahrens-Kley

Samuel Meeker Merchant of Philadelphia


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The MASTER portrait painter and a copyist; Dr. William Thornton, a man for all seasons! Now you can compare

Norma wrote, to ask whether I thought her portrait (shown below) was an original Stuart.  Take a look at it .... what do you think ....?
It had all the same characteristics of a Stuart...........!

HERE is why Stuart is considered a master portrait painter.

Norma: I bought this painting at an auction years ago—just discovered it was William Thornton.  Mine is the same size as is in the Nat. Gallery of Art and is quite old.  I was wondering if it was painted by Stuart? 

Me: Thanks for your message.  The picture does look old, and the style of the portrait is very clearly G. Stuart.  But the quality doesn't seem to be present; the body looks odd...and it would help if I could have a clearer vision of the face.  But from this vantage point it looks like a novice painter painted a portrait using Stuart's style!  Ask yourself if you are super impressed with the quality of the face... Beth 

Norma: I am super impressed by the whole painting.  Why would anyone at that time want a picture of Thornton? I thought Stuart wanted to improve the painting.
Thankyou for responding.

Hi Norma, Re: Why would anyone at that time want a picture of Thornton?? I checked the Park volumes and there is a Dr. William Thornton,..... Dr William Thornton lived from 1761-1828.  Your painting does not match accurately the Stuart painting of Thornton that is in the volumes, but there is enough resemblance to make me think that the artist, whoever it was, was doing another portrait of the doctor in the Stuart style.  The body in your portrait is too 'shallow', the lips too full. I will post your picture on my blog if that is ok, and put Dr W Thornton from the volumes on it too so you can compare.  [from original Stuart] the body is much fuller, the lips are thinner, there is a less "painted" look of the face.  I note that the info on the Dr. says that he was aminiature painter, and "copied some of Stuart's portraits.".....
Super interesting!  But it is clearly not an original Stuart~but a copy so old is very cool.

Norma: I am sure you are right- just wanted to make sure it wasn't valuable.  You can tell it is very old.  Won't bother you anymore and thanks so much Thornton designed our US Capitol.

done by the sitter himself Dr. William Thornton?

From Lawrence Park V II
Doctor William Thornton 1761-1828
William Thornton was of Quaker parentage and born on the Island of Jost Van Dyke, West Indies.  He studied medicine in Edinburgh but was also an accomplished architect and artist as well.  He designed the Philadelphia Library Building erected in 1790.  In 1794 he became Commissioner of Public Buildings in Washington DC, and in 1800 he drew the first plans for the United States Capitol Building.  He also assisted Thomas Jefferson with the plans for the University of Virginia buildings.  Col John Tayloe's Octagon House was built after his plans.  From 1802 until his death he was the first Chief of the Patent Office.  He also invented a flutter-wheel steamboat and accused Robert Fulton of having wrongfully deprived him of it.  As a miniature painter he was above the average and copied some of Stuart's portraits.  In 1790 he married Anna Maria Brodeau, daughter of Mrs. Ann Brodeau.

Portrait of Dr. William Thornton, Washington 1804
National Gallery of Art


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Stuart amuses his companions while travelling by coach.

The artist was travelling by stage in England.  His fellow-passengers were a number of gentlemen who were strangers to him, and who, finding him very amusing, ventured to ask him who he was, and what was his calling.
Mr. Stuart answered with a grave face and a serious tone, that he sometimes dressed gentlemen's and ladies' hair (at that time the high-craped pomatumed hair was all the fashion.)  "You are a hair-dresser, then?"
"What!" said he, "do you take me for a barber?"
"I beg your pardon, sir, but I inferred it from what you said.  If I mistook you, may I take the liberty to ask what you are, then?"
"Why, I sometimes brush a gentleman's coat, or hat, and sometimes adjust a cravat."
"Oh, you are a valet, then, to some nobleman?"
"A valet! Indeed, sir, I am not.  I am not a servant, --to be sure, I make coats and waistcoats for gentlemen."
"Oh, you are a tailor?"
"A tailor! Do I look like a tailor?  I assure you, I never handled a goose, other than a roasted one."
By this time they were all in a roar. "What the devil are you, then?" said one.
"I'll tell you," said Stuart. "Be assured all I have said is literally true.  I dress hair, brush hats and coats, adjust a cravat, and make coats, waistcoats and breeches, and likewise boots and shoes, at your service."
"Oh, a boot and shoe maker after all!"
"Guess again gentlemen; I never handle boots or shoes but for my own feet and lets, yet all I have told you is true."
"We may as well give up guessing!"
After checking his laughter, and pumping up a fresh flow of spirits by a large pinch of snuff, he said to them very gravely; "Now gentlemen, I will not play the fool with you any longer, but will tell you, upon my honor as a gentleman, my bona fide profession.  I get my bread by making faces."  He then screwed his countenance, and twisted the lineaments of his visage in a manner such as a Samuel Foote or Charles Mathews might have envied.  When his companions, after loud peals of laughter, had composed themselves, each took credit to himself for having all the while suspected that the gentleman belonged to the theater, and they all knew he must be a comedian by profession; when, to their utter surprise, he assured them that he was never on the stage, and very rarely saw the inside of a play-house, or any similar place of amusement.  They now all looked at each other in blank astonishment.  Before parting, Stuart said to his companions;

"Gentlemen, you will find that all I have said of my various employments is comprised in these words: I am a portrait painter."

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Grand Tour was De Rigueur: Sophie travels with her son by coach to London 1786. We can be sure that this type of travel is exactly what Gibby experienced during his time in Europe==the travellers marvel at the latest hightech gadget on the English mail coach!

The fancy mail coach (a similar one) that Sophie and her son admired from the window of their Inn, it could transport so many people at one time!

FROM: SOPHIE IN LONDON 1786 (the diary of Sophie v. la Roche in the fall 1786)
first published 1933
The transport arrangements for London are excellent.  From the capital to Harwich is a distance of seventy-four English miles; these are divided into five stages: from here to Mistley, twelve miles; Colchester, ten miles; Witham, fourteen miles; Ingatestone, fourteen miles; Romford, twelve miles; London, twelve miles.  The host of the ‘Three Bumpers’, our present abode, keeps horses, grooms and coaches, of which he has all kinds, letting them out for London, and he is connected with landlords at the above-mentioned localities who, if one arrives with his coach, immediately harness the best horses and put one en route again fast as lightning, accompanied by very well-dressed attendants.  Our coach held five comfortably, was lined with fine cloth, and so well built and lacquered as befitted a state-coach.  Four horses and two postillions brought us early into Ingatestone along the best of roads and through the finest of landscapes.

...We encountered a number of coaches and vehicles, especially goods-vans, whose wheels, by Act of Parliament, are over a hand’s breadth; and so, constantly on the look-out for new and pleasant objects, we arrived in the lovely village of Ingatestone...we had the fun of watching the Colchester mail-coach arrive.  Its name is quite rightly the Colchester Machine—seating six people inside, in front outside behind the coachman four more, and at the back, where the trunks usually go, as many again with a neat enclosure with benches, while eight people were sitting above on deck, their feet dangling overboard, holding fast with their hands to screwed-in brass rings.  This was a new experience for us; we called to each other to come, and my Carl investigated the structure of the machine as soon as it was empty; this took place with all possible convenience to the passengers, as not only those occupying the seats of honour inside were able to descend as in every other good coach, but the rest could climb down too with the aid of small, prettily worked and painted ladders placed immediately alongside, like those found at home in well-appointed libraries.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

More on Sophie v La Roche, friend of Goethe, on her trip to London where she meets Gilbert Stuart; she writes that this portrait artist was criticised....why?

Sophie v. La Roche (1730- 1807)
Sophie, daughter of a German doctor, had the typical female education (of the upper class) with emphasis on language, art and literature, music and maintenance of household.  After making her formal debut into society, she was betrothed to Italian Giovanni Ludovico Bianconi, which broke apart over religious differences.  She then was engaged to the famed German poet, writer and philosopher Christoph Martin Wieland but this relationship did not survive geographical distance.  In 1753 she married Georg Michael Frank La Roche, secretary and estate manager of a state minister.  Of 8 children 5 survived to adulthood. In the 1760s Sohpie was a court lady at the duke’s castle of Warhausen—she had access to a large library, and helped with court correspondence (written in French).  Later the family having moved to Coblenz, Sophie carried on a literary salon, mentioned by Goethe.
Perhaps Sophie’s biggest claim to fame is being known as one of the first female authors of a novel (quite unacceptable in those days): Die Geschichte des Frauleins von Sternheim.
Sophie v. La Roche travelled to London accompanied by her son Carl, age 20. 

Portrait of Sophie v La Roche by Georg Oswald May, 1776

From her diary of the trip on SEPT 13, 1786; she and Carl visit the most famed artists of the day

   "An extraordinary day!  Pictures by Reynolds, Gainsborough, West, and Stuart; then to Green, the engraver’s. To my mind, in the homes of these men the English character glistens like the gold they employ for the encouragement and reward of diligence in art; the numerous orders and the artists’ prosperity are evidence of this.  Lovely homes, apartments hung with pictures by famous old masters, bronze and marble ornaments—these are one’s first impressions; then at Reynold’s, through a passage full of half-finished pictures, one enters a room lit from above, and where the quantity and beauty of the pictures heaped up there, as if conjured by a magic wand in their myriad forms and fascinating rhythms, leave one quite dumbfounded.  This is no exaggeration, for they are piled against each other in threes and fours.  Sir Joshua Reynolds was in the country, which disappointed me, as I should have liked to make his personal acquaintance and judge of his manner; for a clever man quite recently maintained ’that the works of painters and sculptors always reveal qualities of their own personality, in the same way as poets and moralists always put their main affections into the title role, with the strongest light thrown on to them.’
   I do not know whether this remark has any foundation, or whether I was prejudiced by the specious tone of the utterance, but I thought I saw some truth in it, as once a painter, who had very strong features, was criticised in all his really good and finished portraits for ‘making a credible likeness and beautiful picture with features too strong.’ " ...

Friday, April 26, 2013

German visitor and friend of Goethe Sophie von La Roche in London 1786, pays a visit to Stuart who now reigns at the top with Joshua Reynolds and West, in grand digs

Stuart left Newport RH in the fall of 1775—already the colonies were under threat of war, the harbor had become so dangerous that Stuart’s ship was held up for a week by a British man-of-war.  The goal was London.  Stuart surely knew that Benjamin West (born in PA) was already there. Out of funds quickly thereafter, he auditioned successfully as a church organist and lived in “cheap lodgings” (according to his daughter.)  The artist continued to be destitute, finally sometime  in the late winter of 1776 Stuart wrote to West to ask for help “to live and learn.”  Stuart’s talent began to unfold and success quickly followed. 

In 1782 Stuart achieved an explosion of prominence, and his reputation skyrocketed, with the display of his portrait The Skater in the Royal Academy’s exhibition of that year, allowing him to leave his apprenticeship with West.  He now felt that in order to better convey his success and prosperity, impressive expensive lodgings were in order (despite the cost).  He rented a grand house, as was usual with other successful portrait painters, which also provided the suitable surroundings for his more prominent sitters and for proper entertainment. It was here, on Sept 13 1786, that Sophie von La Roche [from Germany] visited Stuart. 

The Skater by Gilbert Stuart 1782

Sophie kept a diary of her trip to London, one day was designated to paying tribute to famed English artists. September 13, 1786: She begins her entry “An extraordinary day!” and continues “Pictures by Reynolds, Gainsborough, West and Stuart; then to Green, the engraver’s.  To my mind, in the homes of these men the English character glistens like the gold they employ for the encouragement and reward of diligence in art; the numerous orders and the artists’ prosperity are evidence of this.  Lovely homes, apartments hung with pictures by famous old masters, bronze and marble ornaments—these are one’s first impressions;

... “we found West, the painter of historical scenes, there in person, surrounded by pupils and masterpieces by his own hand.  He received us nobly, though unassumingly, in the manner of all great achievement.  He works in a room lit from above, and the gallery leading to it is hung with sketches of completed pictures of which engravings had been made....

[and here are the few comments made when she visits “Mr. Stuart.”  One could come away with the impression that Sophie did not care for the turn of the conversation towards the price of portraits]
...“From here we arrived at Mr. Stuart’s, a young, but respected artist, who will become an excellent portrait painter; he already has plenty to do, and deserves every encouragement.  He, too, lives as if in the hall of the temple of the Muses, in rooms of magnificent style, fit for true genius to unfold its wings and soar.  Fine architecture surrounds him; and it would be almost impossible for him to introduce anything niggardly or anxious into his pictures.  But in accordance with all this, 20, 50, 100 and 150 guineas are the sums quoted here when the talk turns to the prices of portraits.”

No other words referring to Stuart. Sophie visited the engraver Green, and then lunched with "Mr Heinzelmann" a relative.  A brief description of the rest of the afternoon: "We had an old English menu; a large fish, boiled mutton, pudding, boiled cabbage with butter, and a roast.  Punch was made at table.  After the meal Miss Heinzelmann played the piano and sang until I was fetched to see Somerset House, a magnificent palace built in four large wings dedicated to the academies of science and art."

Stuart did not last long in his grand digs.  1787 he went to Dublin at the invitation of a patron (who unexpectedly died), and decided to stay.  To avoid creditors in London?  In 1789 he was sent to debt prison where he irreverently continued to paint portraits for "bread."

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Stuart is auctioned, but is this William Brownlow the real Stuart?

I noticed a Gilbert Stuart portrait "The Right Honorable William Brownlow" was sold recently at auction at Sotheby's--my first question these days is "IS IT GENUINE?"  Now, I am not a titled expert.  But if one compares this portrait to the excellence of the portrait of Meeker, a question as to authenticity might be raised.  Does this portrait nail the likeness of Brownlow, or does it have an "artistic" look?  Could it in fact be a copy?
The estimate sale price was $15,000 to $25,000. and it sold for $27,500.00
Thus one should be certain that the artwork is genuine, and one would think that Sotheby's would know a copy from the real thing. OR. Might Sotheby's be interested more.... in a sale?  How much research does an auction house carry out on a particular artwork...

The portrait of Brownlow indeed is listed in the Lawrence Park volumes, with his image (however only in black and white.)  A swift comparison shows that the portraits are the same.

PROVENANCE (as provided by Sotheby's)
Sale: Heritage Auctions, Dallas, November 11, 2009, lot 66013
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

The Right Honorable William Brownlow (1726-1794) 
by Gilbert Stuart c.1790 Dublin

Dublin, c 1790.  Half-length, seated half-way to the right in an armchair upholstered in red.  His gray-blue eyes are directed to the spectator.  He wears a very dark blue velvet coat, a pale yellow figured or embroidered waistcoat, a white neckcloth and ruffled shirt.  His wig is powdered.  His right hand, holding a letter, is resting on a table covered with a soft gray-blue cloth.  The plain background is the color of dark oak.

A son of William Brownlow of County Armagh, Ireland, by his wife, Lady Elizabeth Hamilton, daughter of James, Sixth Earl of Abercorn.  In 1754 he married first, Judith Letitia Meredyth of Newtown, Meath; in 1765 he married, second, Catherine, daughter of Roger Hall of Mount Hall, Downshire, Ireland.  He was a Member of Parliament for County Armagh.  His grandson, Charles Brownlow (1795-1847) was, in 1839, created Baron Lurgan.


The image in Park matches that which was auctioned, as far as I can tell.  But, if one compares the style of portrait between Brownlow and Meeker, Meeker appears to be so unbelievably accurate, to be almost a photograph. (My mother's dog Sammy used to look up at the portrait of Meeker and bark in the light of the setting sun!)  Possibly however Stuart DID have a different style in his earlier years in Dublin? But take a look at Aaron Burr, painted ca. 1794.

Aaron Burr by Gilbert Stuart ca. 1794

This is more of a Meeker style, not a Brownlow style.

And where is a more accurate provenance (history of ownership of the painting) of "Brownlow"?  Why is it lacking so substantially?  Where is the info that this portrait was, in the early 1900s, in the possession of Lord Lurgan of Brownlow House in Ireland (provided by Park)?

Reading Park more closely I found the following:

"A replica (or copy?) of this portrait is owned by Viscount de Vesci."

Friday, March 15, 2013


I received an exciting email, from one of the foremost experts on Gilbert Stuart.  Dorinda Evans published an exemplary work on the master portrait artist in 1999 "The Genius of Gilbert Stuart". Over the last years she has been working on an in-depth analysis with new provocative thoughts about Stuart,  and it is now published! Congratulations! 

Her note to me:
   Ashgate has just published my book, Gilbert Stuart and the Impact of Manic Depression.  I thought you'd be interested.
                                                  With best wishes,
                                                  Dorinda Evans

I responded (with also exciting news):
Lovely, thank you!
I will soon have an article published on Samuel Meeker in Financial History magazine (spring issue I believe) connected to the Museum of American Finance. 
This will be the first time that the Stuart portrait will be published in a big way for the public to see, although the article will be mainly on Meeker.  Of course Stuart is mentioned (as signalling a particular level of wealth), and a description of the portrait (along with image.)
I will let you know when it is out on the stands.  I am hoping (but dare not ask), that the portrait will be on the cover!
I will definitely buy your book.  How exciting~ congratulations.

fThe museum is located at 48 Wall Street, on the corner of William Street, in New York City. I encourage a visit to this museum, to better understand where we were, and where we are today economically, and where we are going!e

UPDATE-- my article is only a "biography" and therefore, according to the editor and I quote: "Unfortunately we’re not able to put this on the cover because it’s not the lead article.  It would be extremely rare for us to include a biography as a cover story, unless it tied in with one of the Museum’s exhibits.  I’m pleased to include the article in this issue, though, as I think it’s an interesting piece on a person most of our readership will be unfamiliar with.  Also, I think I mentioned I used to live in one of the Meeker houses in NJ, so it’s fun for me on a personal level."

Well, I'll find a magazine soon enough...where my guy can be on the cover!
If any of my readers have an idea for an appropriate publication, ie the ARTS and so on, please write!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

To check for authenticity of a Stuart? Similarity! Samuel Gatliff, the rise and fall of a Philadelphia merchant

Not as much is known about Samuel Gatliff (1773/74-1806) as is known about his pretty wife Elizabeth (painted by Stuart)~ her father represented Virginia in Congress (also painted by Stuart). Her grandfather C. Braxton was a prominent Virginia planter, politician, and signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Gatliff was a partner in a wool manufacturing firm in England before making his way to Philadelphia and marrying Elizabeth there.  Clearly he offered good prospects since he was able to marry a woman from the social elite of the city.  The couple had 4 children, and were able to live not far from Samuel Meeker on the banks of the Schuylkill which indicates wealth (or at least the show of it~I have not figured out where exactly but it seems to have been on the east bank) He is listed as a merchant at 124 Spruce St. in Philadelphia city directories 1798-1803, advertising “thirty bales of stuffs” for sale in 1803 in the Gazette of the United States...Elizabeth’s circle of friends included Eleanor Parke Custis (G. Washington’s grand-daughter).

A problem in determining the authenticity of a Stuart is that he did not sign his portraits.  When asking oneself, is this portrait by Stuart?  Check first of all for...SIMILARITY.
I have picked the image of Gatliff to show the remarkable similarities between this portrait and Meeker's.  Stuart seemed to like to have his 'merchants' hold papers which most likely indicate bills of lading or some kind of trade correspondence.  They are dressed very similarly in a fashionable way, similar pose (seated at a table covered with a red cloth) turned slightly to the right with face looking at the viewer, similar size (3/4 length), similar accents (red velvet chair.) Perhaps Meeker paid a bit more for the curtain/sky background, also a sitter could probably choose to pay a bit more for the papers. The perfect men of commerce.  Merchant Gatliff has rather pointy and pale features, perhaps even by this time his health was suffering (note the difference in posture between Gatliff and Meeker)... 

c. 1798 Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

Yet as prominently as Gatliff displayed his "success" (living in a villa on the Schuylkill, Stuart portrait with more expensive add-ons) which was also important to inspire trust, this also shows that he seems to have extended his credit too widely. His trading practice began to wobble.  The business partner of Gatliff's, still in Yorkshire England, was obliged to leave England and travel to Philadelphia in the effort to right the problems now apparently causing substantial financial distress (from this partner we know that the Gatliffs lived on the Schuylkill river bank) but this friend was unable to help, accused Gatliff of financial misconduct, and the business partners dissolved the friendship and business ties were cut.  Gatliff did not have time to prove that he had any talent or the ability to shed debt, he died 3 years later at the young age of 32 (consumption?), and Elizabeth went with her four girls to live with her father in Va.

When determining the authenticity of a Stuart, besides checking Stuart's style and similarities to your portrait, check whether other relatives were done by Stuart; he often painted an extended circle of relatives.  (Meeker's first cousin William P Meeker was painted by GS. He had neither papers, nor sky, nor chair.)

Next: the portrait of Elizabeth Gatliff and child.

Site Meter