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Portrait of Susannah Rose Lawson (Mrs. Gavin Lawson)(1749-1825)

Origin: America, Virginia, Stafford County
Unframed: 49 5/8 x 38 7/8in. (126 x 98.7cm) and Framed: 56 1/8 x 45 1/4 x 2 3/4in.
Oil on canvas
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1954-262,A&B
A three-quarter-length portrait of a young woman, seated and turned in three-quarter view towards the viewer's right. Her proper right arm is bent, her elbow resting on a marble-topped pier table having carved cabriole legs. She wears three strands of pearls at her throat, each centered by a drop, and scattered pears in her brown hair. She wears a pale blue satin (in appearance) dress with a white stomacher and ruffles at the low, square neckline and the elbow-length sleeve cuffs. Pink roses are tucked in her bodice and held in her proper left hand. The background is a shadowed, warm brown interior wall with, to the viewer's right, a window opening set with a volute in the lower left corner; through the window trees and a clouded sky are visible. A rectangular shape in the upper left corner of the composition is indistinct.

The 3 5/8-inch scoop-molded, black-painted frame has gilded egg- and-dart ornament at the sight edge, is constructed with corner splines, and is believed to be original. The leading edge is a separate molding, applied to the back frame. Also see n. 1.
Label:The Lawsons lived at Hampstead plantation, Stafford County, Virginia, and moved later to Geneva, Seneca County, New York. He was a successful merchant who had married into the prominent Fitzhugh family. No doubt Lawson commissioned these extraordinary likenesses because of a familiarity with some of the many Fitzhugh paintings that Hesselius created. The Lawson portraits show a strong influence of the English itinerant artist John Wollaston Jr. as well as Hesselius’s fully developed interpretation of the rococo style. They rank among his most ambitious portraits with highly developed compositions, complex perspective, and sophisticated coloring, particularly in the use of warmer hues for shading.
The 1771 portrait of Susannah’s mother, Anne Fitzhugh Rose, by John Hesselius is also owned by Colonial Williamsburg.

Provenance:See the file statement dated November 9, 1954, that was sent to Knoedler's by descendent Robert Rose Carson, then forwarded to CWF by Knoedler's. Also see Elizabeth Clare, Knoedler's, to CWF, November 11, 1954. According to Carson, the portraits of Gavin and Susannah Lawson descended from the subjects to their daughter, Jane Lawson (who married her first cousin, Robert Rose); thence to her son, Charles A. Rose; to his son, Arthur P. Rose; to his son, Arthur Lawson Rose; to his first cousin, Dr. Hugh D. Rose (d. before 1954). The two portraits are believed to have been consigned to Knoedler's (CWF's source) by the estate of Dr. Hugh D. Rose.

Christine Rose ("Bibliography"), p. 75, diverges from the preceding in saying that the portraits went from Arthur P. Rose to his daughters, Miss Mary and Miss Hester Rose of New York, NY, thence to Knoedler's.

Inscription(s):In red paint in script on the lower edge of the window framing in the composition is lettering that appears to read: "J. H. Pinxt 1770."

Inscribed on the reverse of the primary support (now covered by a lining canvas) is: "Susanah Lawson/Wife of Gawin Lawson Aetat 20/ J H pinx 1770".

N. B. The preceding transcription was taken from a file photo made by conservator Sheldon Keck, which, due to residual glue from a removed lining, does not show the lettering clearly. (Keck transcribed the inscription onto the back of the new lining canvas he added in the course of his 1957 treatment; he did not transcribe the inscription exactly as in the original, although he cited the original correctly in his report of January 1958.)