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Portrait of Calvin Hall (1759-1833)

1808
Origin: America, Massachusetts, Cheshire
Unframed: 34 x 30in. (86.4 x 76.2cm) and Framed: 37 1/2 x 33 1/2in.
Oil on fine linen
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1957.100.1
A three-quarter length portrait of a man seated in a black-painted, bamboo-turned, Windsor armchair. He is turned one quarter towards the viewer's left, his head turned slightly towards the viewer, his eyes on the viewer. Behind him, a large red drape fills much of the space, with a plain wall below and a view out a window to the viewer's left. Through the window a landscape of trees, small houses, and ducks is visible. The man wears a black topcoat with five buttons down the proper left side; tan-colored trousers with matching waistcoat; and a white, ruffled shirt with a white neckcloth. His brown hair is cut short and brushed over his forehead. His eyes are blue. He has high cheekbones, thin lips, and a deeply-lined face.
The 2-inch cove-molded gilt frame with beaded inner and gadrooned outer borders is probably a period replacement.
Label:This portrait is often thought to typify stern, humorless New Englanders. But records reveal that New Englanders could be as light-hearted and fun-loving as people in any other region of America. Indeed, the fact that Calvin Hall (1759–1833) commissioned a life-size, full-length portrait of his daughter suggests that he was a particularly indulgent, doting father. Hall’s own half-length likeness and that of his wife Mercy Barnes Hall presumably reflect his and painter James Brown’s mutual goal of images that conveyed simple dignity. Such a depiction suited a Revolutionary War veteran like Hall, who fought in New York State.

The background of the portrait is believed to show part of Cheshire, Massachusetts, including the tavern built by Hall and a partner in 1804. The building, which still stands, housed prisoners during the War of 1812.
Provenance:Found in Sartoga, NY; purchased from The Old Print Shop, New York, NY.