Portrait of Elizabeth Buckner Stith (Mrs. Drury Stith)(b. 1695-1700 and d. 1756)
Origin: America, Virginia, Williamsburg
Unframed: 30 x 22in. (76.2 x 55.9cm) and Framed: 36 1/8 x 28 1/8 x 1 1/4in.
Acc. No. 1951-577,A&C
A half-length portrait of a middle-aged woman turned a quarter towards the viewer's right, her eyes toward the viewer, the composition set within feigned spandrels at all four corners. The subject's graying, dark brown hair is brushed back from her face and falls loosely to her shoulders; her eyes are brown, her complexion rosy. She wears a loose, blue-gray wrap having a red lining, the wrap exposing at the neckline a sheer muslin shift or fichu.
The frame on this picture prior to 10-5-2012 (acc. no. 1951-577,B) was a period replacement, 3 1/2-inch molded one, stained black, with a carved, gilded inner border cut down to fit the painting. On 1050-2012, it was discovered that this frame was too riddled with insect holes to ensure the painting's safety, and it was replaced with a modern, black-painted, 1 3/4-inch cyma reversa molding that, originally, had been made for a map in the collection and has now been numbered 1951-577,C.
Label:Because this portrait of Elizabeth Stith is signed by Dering, it serves as the basis for attributing other portraits to the artist show in this exhibit. The inscription appears at the lower right and left of the picture and reads “W. Dering” (left) and “AEstatis Suae 50” (right). The subject was from York County, Virginia.
Dering’s manner of drawing and painting heads and fabrics is consistently the same in all the pictures assigned to him. His shading is adequate, though minimal, and areas such as fabric folds are somewhat awkward in their shape and modeling. These qualities suggest that Dering had little, if any, training in portrait painting.
Provenance:The portrait descended from the subject to her son, Griffin Stith, of Brunswick County, Va.; to his daughter, Mrs. Christopher Johnston I (Susanna Stith)(1750-1819) of Virginia and Baltimore, Md.; to her son, Christopher Johnston II (1800-1835) of Baltimore, Md.; to his son, Christopher Johnston III (1822-1891) of Baltimore, Md.; to his son, Christopher Johnston IV (1856-1914) of Baltimore, Md.; to his daughter, Mrs. Pinckney W. Snelling (Sarah C. S. Johnston) of Hartford, Conn., who was CWF's vendor.
Mark(s):A press-printed conservator's label that was removed by Sheldon and Caroline Keck in the course of their own, later, treatment reads: "Mrs. J. G. Hopkins,/Henry C. Hopkins,/RESTORERS OF OIL PAINTINGS/NO. 326 ST. PAUL STREET,/N. W. COR. PLEASANT/BALTIMORE, MD." The Hopkins work may have been done about 1905, per commentary by once-owner Dr. Christopher Johnston.
Inscription(s):A painted inscription in the lower left corner of the canvas reads, "AEtatis Suae 5-"; another, in the lower right corner, reads, "W. Dering 17--".
About 1905, Christopher Johnson IV ("Provenance") read the above inscriptions as: "Aetatis suae 50" [the age of 50] followed by "Mrs. Eliz. Stith" and, at lower right, "W. Dering 17. . . ." Today the last digit of the subject's age is obscure and her name virtually obliterated. The date after Dering's signature is still partially legible.