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Portrait of Letitia Breckinridge Porter (Mrs. Peter Buell Porter)

ca. 1819
Origin: America, Kentucky, Lexington
Primary Support: 27 ½” x 22 ½”, Framed: 36” x 30 ¾ " x 3 1/2"
Oil on canvas
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 2016-196,A&B
Half-length portrait of a woman turned slightly to her right before a purple background. She is wearing a black dress with a high white collar with a gold shawl draped around her arms. Her hair is pulled back into a chignon with the exception of ringlets of curls on either side of her face.

Label:Peter and Letitia Porter represent the height of fashion for their day. As now, hairstyles changed often. Peter’s curious forward swept look and Letitia’s curls were stylish in 1819. Peter was a lawyer and military veteran, having served as commander of the New York militia brigade in the War of 1812. Letitia was the daughter of Kentucky senator John Breckinridge. The couple, married in 1818, were visiting the Bluegrass State from their home in Buffalo when their portraits were painted by Matthew Harris Jouett.

Jouett had recently returned to Kentucky when he completed these paintings. The couple ordered at least four copies, three of which, like Peter’s portrait, were on wood panels. The artist’s use of canvas for Letitia’s likeness may stem from a larger commission of Breckinridge family portraits, all painted on canvas around the same time. The Porters’ images survive in their original Kentucky frames, illustrating two styles. A rare maker’s label on the back of Letitia’s frame identifies Lexington carver and gilder James McIntosh, a friend and business associate of Jouett.
Provenance:According to accompanying provenance document: Letitia Porter to her brother Rev. Rilliam L. Breckinridge II; to son Marcus P. Breckinridge; to his wife Lucy Long Breckinridge; to her son Dr. Stephen Breckinridge; to his brother William L. Breckinridge III; to his brother Richard Breckinridge; to his nephew William L. Breckinridge IV; to William Barrow Floyd