Portrait of Elizabeth Burwell Nelson (Mrs. William Nelson)(1718-d. by 1798)
Origin: America, Pennsylvania or Virginia
Unframed; excluding lip-over molding: 49 5/8 x 39 5/8in. (126 x 100.6cm) and Framed: 55 3/4 x 46 1/4 x 1 7/8in.
Gift of Mrs. Douglas Crocker
Acc. No. 1986-246,A
A three-quarter-length portrait of a seated woman turned three-quarters to the viewer's right. She is youngish, her dark hair brushed straight back off her face and arranged in a long curl over her proper right shoulder; she has dark, arched eyebrows; heavy lids; dark eyes; small, firm mouth. She wears a blue satin dress with a fitted bodice that opens at the front; it has elbow-length sleeves with jeweled clasps; the white ruffles of an undergarment show at the neckline and sleeves. She holds a rose in her proper left hand, her proper right elbow resting on a vaguely defined support. The background contains a shadowy sky.
Label:William Nelson and his family lived on Main Street in Yorktown, Virginia, directly across from the well-known surviving large brick mansion owned by his father, Thomas “Scotch Tom” Nelson. William’s brother named Thomas Nelson owned another dwelling down the street that served as Lord Cornwallis’s headquarters during the siege of Yorktown. Elizabeth Burwell Nelson was the daughter of Nathaniel Burwell and Elizabeth Carter Burwell of Fairfield plantation in Gloucester, Virginia.
All of the Nelsons were adversely affected by the 1781 battle, which destroyed the Thomas Nelson house. The William Nelson house and its portraits survived. Family tradition indicates that these likenesses, and another by Feke of William’s sister, were later taken off their strainers, rolled up, and transported by wagon to other households.
When the William Nelson portraits were later restored, they were extensively over painted. A more recent restoration removed much of the over paint and infilling to reveal Feke’s original work. The composition, pose, and manner of painting seen in the portraits of William and Elizabeth Nelson are consistent with Feke’s work in New England and Philadelphia.
Provenance:The earliest part of the line of descent is speculated. In the latter part, Mrs. Mercer's, Mrs. Carter's, and Mrs. Crocker's ownerships are all documented, but it is uncertain whether the portrait passed through the hands of Thomas Nelson Carter. The line of descent may have bypassed him, going (presumably after his death) from Mrs. Mercer directly to his widow, Agnes Atkinson Mayo Carter:
From the subject to his eldest son, Thomas Nelson (1738-1789); to his eldest son, William Nelson, Sr. (1763-1801); to his second son, William Nelson, Jr. (1801-1849); to his daughter, Mrs. Corbin W. Mercer (Fannie Burwell Nelson)(1848-1932) of Yorktown and Richmond, Va.; to her second cousin once removed, Thomas Nelson Carter (1858-1917); to his wife, Mrs. Thomas Nelson Carter (Agnes Atkinson Mayo)(1866-?); given to her daughter, Mrs. Douglas Crocker (Isabelle Burwell Carter)(1891-?), who was CWF's source.