Portrait of the Smith Family
Origin: America, Virginia, Richmond
Unframed: 38 1/8 x 29in. (96.8 x 73.7cm) and Framed: 37 5/8 x 28 1/2in.
Oil on canvas; in the original mortice and tenon yellow pine frame with black stain and gilded bead edge
Acc. No. 2011.100.1,A&B
On the opposite, corresponding side of the canvas, three more figures are shown, their faces also in profile. At the top, an adult male looks toward the central woman; only part of his face is visible. Below him, two women and a young boy also look toward the central woman. The boy's collar and part of the female's kerchief are also visible.
Three children ring the bottom of the composition. At lower center, a small girl, shown bust-length and full-face, holds a gray rabbit. To the (viewer's) right of her stands a young boy in a mustard-colored suit with a white ruffled collar; he has reddish hair, his face is in profile, and his near hand is placed on the gray rabbit. To the (viewer's) left of the center girl stands another young boy in a similar suit, younger than the preceding boy. His body is turned a bit to expose his back, but his face is in profile. He raises his proper right arm and points upward with his index finger.
Thus, nine flesh-and-blood figures are represented in all. However, two more people are represented via miniature portraits. Around her neck, the central woman wears a miniature on a chain, the image being a bust-length likeness of a woman in profile looking right. Another miniature on a chain is grasped by the child on the central woman's shoulder, this being a bust-length likeness of a man in profile looking right.
The 4-inch yellow pine frame is original. It has a yellow-painted inner bead with a flat painted dark gray. Its joints are through tennoned and pinned. A separate yellow pine molding (also painted dark gray) is nailed to the face along the outer edge.
Label:Family tradition credits Captain James Smith with having painted this group portrait of his extended family. He included himself, in profile, at the upper right. In 1790, the Scottish sea captain and merchant settled in Dumfries, Prince William County, Virginia, where he and his family lived on a 600-acre estate called Cedar Grove. A decline in the local shipping industry forced Smith into bankruptcy and relocation. In 1806, he opened a store in Richmond, and his family joined him there the next year. This portrait is thought to have been painted around the time of their reunion.
Smith’s unusual composition spotlights his wife, Rachel King Smith (1774–1825). She is surrounded by five of their nine children as well as her mother Rachel Westwood King McClurg and her half-sister Barbara Vance McClurg. The artist included a profile of himself in the far upper right. The two miniatures probably represent members of Rachel’s extended family, perhaps her grandparents. William and Mary Tabb Westwood of Briarfields in Hampton, Virginia.
Provenance:The painting descended in the Smith family from Rachel King Smith and Captain James Smith; Mary King Smith Tyler (their daughter) b. 1806; Edmund Andrew (Squire) Tyler (her son) b. 1832; William Edmund Tyler (Squire's son) b. 1898; James Ferguson Tyler (William's son) b. 1927; Sotheby's.