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Portrait of David R. Peirce (1806-1885)

Origin: America, Massachusetts, New Bedford
Unframed: 16 1/8" x 12 1/8" and Framed: 22" X 18"
Oil on tag board, framed and glazed
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1989.100.3
Bust-length portrait of a man facing left. His dark brown hair is combed forward at the sides and up on top. He wears a dark brown beard trimmed to the rear of his jawline without a moustache. He wears a black coat, white shirt with turned down collar, and black, knotted stock. He poses before a plain medium green background.
Label:William Matthew Prior was shrewd, capable, and versatile. Surviving portraits and newspaper advertisements make it clear that he adjusted his method of painting to suit customers' pocketbooks. For bargain-hunters, he worked in the so-called "flat" style represented here. Freed from the necessity of rendering painstaking modeling and shading, the artist could work quickly --- and therefore cheaply.

Prior captured three generations of a single family in the five Peirce portraits owned by the museum. In addition to this representation of David R. Peirce, they show David's wife, Sarah Wilbur Peirce (1808-1871), David's parents, Abraham Peirce (1779-1850) and Mary Hafford Peirce (1779-1848), and a son of David and Sarah, Walter Adams Peirce (1838-1913). A bust to half-length pose that excluded hands was the cheapest option Prior offered in full-scale portraiture.

David Peirce was a native of New Bedford, Massachusetts, where he worked as a house carpenter. He and his wife, Sarah, are listed with nine children ranging in age from twenty-two to two in the 1850 federal census for the town, so still more Peirce offspring may have been included in Prior's 1845 commission from the family.

Provenance:Currier (see "Vendor") stated that he acquired this portrait and its companions (1989.100.1, 1989.100.2, 1989.100.4, and 1989.100.5) from a descendant of the sitter: a sister of Arthur Thomas Peirce (b. 1915) of Berkley, Mass.
Inscription(s):Painted on the backboard is, "Mr David R. Peirce age 30/By W. M P[rior]/of B[oston]/18[45]." Below this, in pencil, is "1845".