Saturday, July 25, 2009

Gilbert Stuart's Portrait of Joseph Priestley

According to the National Gallery of Art "Because he [Stuart] portrayed virtually all the notable men and women of the Federal period in the United States, Gilbert Stuart was declared the 'Father of American Portraiture' by his contemporaries." His most famous work is his unfinished portrait of George Washington. It is noted that Stuart, like Priestley, was a fellow Unitarian.

For this post I am going to quote from the section of Scientific Correspondence of Joseph Priestley that I referred to in my last post about Gilbert Stuart (pp. 177ff):


The distinguished American artist, Gilbert Stuart, born at Narragansett, Rhode Island, in 1756, and died in 1828, executed a portrait of Dr. Priestley at the request of the American Philosophical Society of Philadelphia; this must have been between the years of 1794 and 1800.  The contract price of fifty guineas was paid to Stuart, who, however, delayed finishing the work, especially the drapery, and took it with him to Boston.  There it was accidentally seen by Mr. Barclay, of Wavetree, near Liverpool, a friend and admirer of Dr. Priestley, then on a visit to the United States.  Stuart, whose eccentricities are well known, sold the portrait for fifty guineas to Mr. Barclay, who took it to his home and had it finished by Artaud in 1812.  At the death of Mr. Barclay it was left to Mr. Rathbone, of Liverpool, who is said to have placed it in a public museum of the city.  We have not, however, been able to trace it.

While in Mr. Barclay's possession three full-sized copies were made; one of these was kept by Mr. Priestley, the Doctor's son, and is now preserved by his grandchildren in Northumberland, PA (20).  The second went to Mr. George Skey, Hackney, and was afterwards bought by Mr. Joseph Parkes, husband of a granddaughter of Dr. Priestley.  It is now in the possession of Mme. Belloc, Mr. Parkes's daugher, and hangs in a private house in Westminster (21).  The third went (we are informed) to Miss Mansell, of Birmingham, and was left by her to Cambridge University (22).  Mrs. Wainewright, granddaughter of Dr. Priestley, informed me the three copies were made by Artaud.

Beside these, small copies were made, one of which is now in possession of the widow of Dr. James Russell, of Birmingham (23).  Another is owned by Mme. Beloc (24); another fell to Mrs. Bowen, a granddaughter of Dr. Priestley, and was taken by her to Australia (25).  Still another of these is in possession of Mrs. Wainewright, of London (26).

No comments:

Post a Comment