Portrait of Anne Byrd [later, Mrs. Charles Carter](1725/1726-1751)
Unframed: 50 3/8 x 40 3/8in. (128 x 102.6cm) and Framed: 54 1/8 x 45 1/4 x 2 1/4in.
Acc. No. 1957-183,A
A full-length portrait of a child standing, her body only slightly turned towards the viewer's right. She wears a white, knee-length shift, and her lower legs are bare. She also wears white or silver Roman-style sandals, which appear to come nearly half-way up her lower legs. A pink (est. satin) drape flows from her proper left shoulder and crosses her body diagonally, one end of it resting on the ground beside her. Her brown hair, cut short around her face, is held back by a pink headband decorated with pink and blue flowers. Her proper left hand rests on the head of a tan-white-and-black- haired dog, who sits on a squared-off stone plinth beside her. The background is a wooded landscape, with a dark pinkish sky opening at upper right and revealing a small mountain in the distance.
The 2 3/4-inch frame is a period replacement, having been accessioned independently and separately (as acc. no. 1960-663) and added by CWF. It is black-painted wood with a gold-painted liner bearing shallow relief-carved acanthus leaf decoration.
Label:The subject's father, William Byrd II (1674-1744), married twice. By his first wife, Lucy Parke (d. 1716), he had four children (though only the two girls lived to adulthood, and only Wilhelmina married): Evelyn (1707-1737); Parke (1709-1710); Philips William (1712-1712); and Wilhelmina (b. 1715). In 1724, he married, second, Maria Taylor (1698-1771) of Kensington, England, and by her, he had four more children: Anne (5 February 1725/1726-11 September 1757), the subject of this portrait; Maria (1727-1744); Wiliam III (1728-1777); and Jane (b. 1729).
William Byrd II crossed the Atlantic several times before 1726, at which point he left England and returned to Virginia for good. Anne, born in England and still an infant, was left temporarily in the care of her mother's sister, Anne Taylor, the wife of Capt. Francis Otway. On 5 February 1727/1728, William Bryd II wrote his friend, Charles Boyle, Earl of Orrery, saying, "Mrs. Byrd too gives your Lordship a thousand thanks, for your favours to her daughter [i.e., Anne]. Here is a little Virginian that I fancy is much more a romp than her sister."
The exact date of Anne's eventual trip to her home in Virginia is unrecorded. On 25 June 1729, Byrd wrote to a "Mrs. Armiger" [n. 1]. saying that he was "sending for his daughter and thanks Mrs. Armiger for her kindness to the child. Mrs. Byrd will join him in expressing gratitude." Anne's trip to Virginia was completed by 18 June 1730, when Byrd again wrote Orrery, stating, "My little daughter, who has the honour to be your Lordships god-daughter, is arrived safe. She bore the sea very well, and begins to be acquainted with us. Now we are all together I find I have no less than six children."
On 5 February 1740, Byrd wrote in his diary, "this was my daughter Annie's birthday, God bless her." She turned fifteen that day.
In later life, Anne (also called Nancy and Nannie) and her younger sister, Maria, married brothers, Anne espousing Colonel Charles Carter (1707-1764) of Cleve plantation, King George County, Virginia, on December 25, 1742. (Charles Carter ultimately took three wives, of whom Anne was the second.) Maria Byrd married Landon Carter of Sabine Hall plantation, also in 1742. Anne and Charles Carter had two sons and two daughters.
For many years, this portrait of Anne as a toddler was believed to have been done in America by the English emigrant portraitist Charles Bridges (1670-1747), based on Byrd's December 30, 1735, letter to Virginia's one-time Lt. Governor, Colonel Alexander Spotswood, then living at "Germana." The letter included Byrd's statment that "[Bridges] has drawn my children, and several others in the neighborhood . . . ." Stylistically, however, little Anne's portrait has a higher degree of finish, is more polished and more subtly modeled, and bears heightened, more dramatic contrast than any of Bridges's firmly ascribed Virginia likenesses. Hence, the young girl is now thought to have been painted in England before she left there to take up life in Virginia.
n. 1: Tinling, Correspondence, Vol. I, p. 413, identifies Mrs. Arminger as "probably the wife of Ens., later Maj. Gen., Robert Armiger, at one time aide-de-camp to George II.
Provenance:The exact line of descent from the subject's father, William Byrd II (1674-1744) of Westover, is undocumented, though clearly the portrait was inherited by Byrd's daughter-in-law, Mrs. William Byrd III (Mary Willing)(1740-1814), whose December 1813 will directed that it be given to her son, William Powel Byrd.
it is believed [Meschutt, "Bibliography," p. 39] that brothers Charles Willing Byrd (b. 1770) and William Powel Byrd both declined to take possession of the portraits left them by their mother. Pictures left to them are thought to have reverted to their brother Richard Willing Byrd (1774-1815). When Richard died, CWF's acc. no. 1957-183 (among a larger group of portraits still at Westover) appears to have passed to the boys' older sister, Mrs. Benjamin Harrison (Evelyn Taylor Byrd)(1766-?) of Brandon plantation.
The portrait (described as of "Mrs. Nancy Carter of Cleves, when a child, sister to the last Col. Byrd") was listed as hanging at Upper Brandon in an undated inventory taken by Philadelphian James Mease (1771-1846); it continued at Upper Brandon through at least 11 July 1870 when it was mentioned as hanging there in a letter from William Ritchie to Hugh Blair Grigsby [Virginia Historical Society MS].
Upper Brandon was inherited by William Byrd Harrison (1800-1870). The portrait was likely inherited with the estate, which was willed jointly to sons Charles Shirley Harrison (1842-1899) and George Byrd Harrison (1844-1898). They were forced to sell Upper Brandon to pay debts in 1876/7. The portrait probably sold with the estate to their nephew George Harrison Byrd (1827-1910). The portrait definitely descended to his son Francis Otway Byrd (1878-1956) who also inherited Upper Brandon. Upper Brandon was sold by Byrd to M/M Harry C. Thompson. Likely, the portrait was purchased at the same time.
Mrs. Thompson of Upper Brandon, Spring Grove, Va. was CWF's source.
Mark(s):A stenciled inscription on the back of Charles Volkman's metal-leaf-coated lining canvas (removed and replaced by conservator Russell Quandt in 1958) was transcribed by Quandt as reading: "Waterproof lining & restoring by C. Volkman, So. Frederick No. 14, Baltimore."
Inscription(s):A graphite inscription on the back of a non-original stretcher (the stretcher having been supplied by conservator Charles Volkman) reads "Restored May 1852".