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Portrait of Martha Tucker Newton (Mrs. Thomas Newton, Jr.)(1750/1751-1816) and Thomas Newton III (1768-1847)

Probably 1770
Origin: America, Virginia, Norfolk
Unframed: 48 1/2" x 37 1/8" and Framed: 53 1/2" x 42" x 2 1/4"
Oil on canvas
Gift of M. Knoedler and Company, Inc.
Acc. No. 1954-273,A&C
A three-quarter length portrait of a seated woman, her body partially turned towards the viewer's left, head and eyes towards the viewer. She holds a young child upright on her lap, her far arm encircling it; the brown-haired, blue-eyed child, only partially covered with loose white and blue drapes, plucks at a floral bouquet stuck in the bodice of its mother's dress.

The woman's dress has elbow-length sleeves abd is deep pink, trimmed with ruching and lace. She wears a lace caplet and flowers atop her head. Her brown hair is pulled back from her face. She wears a [pearl?] earring. The child seems to float somewhat above her lap and is not convincingly supported by either her lap or the [window ledge?] that runs horizontally behind the duo from the left side of the composition. Blue tasseled draperies hang vertically at either side of the composition.

The 3-inch, black-painted, bolection-molded frame is a modern reproduction (apparently made to match the non-original but period frame on companion portrait 1954-263). The source and date of application of the reproduction frame are undocumented. It replaced the stylistically-inappropriate nineteenth-century frame (sold in 1991) in which the portrait was acquired.
Label:The Newton likenesses are the most elaborate and the largest of the known portraits that Durand painted in Virginia. The Newton family lived in Norfolk where Thomas Jr. served as a member of the House of Burgesses from 1765 to 1775 and as mayor of the city in the 1790s. His son, Thomas Newton III, also politically prominent, served in the state legislature for a number of years.
Martha Tucker Newton was the daughter of Robert Tucker of Norfolk and Joanna Corbin Tucker.
Two portraits of Newton’s parents, Thomas Newton Sr. and Amy Hutchings Newton, probably by Durand, were recorded in the early twentieth century, but their current whereabouts are unknown.

Provenance:From the subject to his daughter, Mrs. James Taylor (nee Sarah Newton)(1776-1855); to her son, Tazewell Taylor (1810-1875); to one or more interim owners, OR directly to Cincinnatus Newton of Richmond, Va.; to his niece, Mrs. __ Byrd (nee Martha Newton) of Richmond, Va.; to Thomas Newton Page of Rock Hall, Md.; to M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., New York, NY, which was CWF's source. See n. 1 immediately below.

n. 1: Tazewell Taylor, grandson of the subject, is the earliest verified owner, so the picture is presumed to have come to him via his mother, the subject's daughter, who married a Taylor. Tazewell Taylor's ownership BY 1869 is noted in Bolling ("Bibliography"), note 21 on p. 29. The descent Cincinnatus Newton through Thomas Newton Page is documented through the latter's letter to Knoedler's of 2 December 1954.
Inscription(s):It seems doubtful that the back of this primary support bears an inscription, but see below.

See the transcription from Grigsby ("Notes") which lists this and three companion portraits (of the sitter's parents-in-law and husband) as nos. 1-4. Below his listing, Grigsby appears to credit Newton descendant Tazewell Taylor (1810-1875) with the 20 September 1868 statement that "the Portraits were painted by John Durand in 1770 as appears from the memoranda on the back of each portrait which gives the names of the persons & their ages."

Taylor's words and their arrangement seem to imply that all four portraits were so inscribed. Why, then, did Kessler ("Bibligraphy") cite inscriptions on only three of the four (omiting Martha Tucker Newton and Child, CWF acc. no. 1954-273)?

Or, perhaps, were only the two elder Newtons' portraits signed? Brock ("Bibliography") confirms inscriptions on the two elder Newtons (but says her inscription was on the stretcher, not the back of the canvas). He does not mention inscriptions on the younger Newtons, i.e., CWF's 1954-263 and 1954-273. Dunlap ("Bibliography"), also, only mentions inscriptions on the portraits of the two elder Newtons, p. 169.

No extant conservation reports on this painting mention an inscription.