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Portrait of Littleton Waller Tazewell (1774-1860)

1808
Origin: America, Virginia, Richmond
Unframed: 22 x 16 1/16in. (55.9 x 40.8cm) and Framed: 25 1/2 x 19 5/8 x 1 7/8in.
Black and white chalk drawing on watercolor-painted laid paper
Museum Purchase, The Friends of Colonial Williamsburg Collections Fund
Acc. No. 2005-259
A bust-length profile portrait of a man facing left. He wears a black coat with a very widely-notched "M-cut" lapel, a white shirt, neckcloth, and shirt ruffle or neck tie. He has dark curly hair that hangs in a tight S-curve in front of his ear with loose curls over his forehand and tightly bunched curls at the back of his neck. The head and face are carefully delineated, the clothing decidedly less so. White chalk is used to highlight the head and coat button and, in very simple linear strokes, to define the shirt, neckcloth, etc.
The frame on the portrait upon acquisition is a modern replacement, a 2-inch scoop molding, painted gold and "antiqued," with relief cast ornamentation on the outer edge.
Label:The subject was born in Williamsburg December 17, 1774, the son of a noted Virginia legislator, jurist, and U. S. Senator, Henry Tazewell (1754-1799), and his wife, Dorothea Waller. Dorothea died in 1777, when her son was three years old, and Henry never remarried. Subsequently, the motherless child was raised by his maternal grandparents, Judge Benjamin Waller and his wife, of Williamsburg. Waller's death in 1785 left the boy bereft. (Later, he recollected his feelings as having "lost all I valued on earth").

A friend of Waller's then stepped in. Impressed by the boy's mastery of grammer and Greek history, Chancellor George Wythe took charge of "the youngest boy he had ever undertaken to instruct."

In 1791, Tazewell graduated with a B. A. from the College of William and Mary, following which he lived with his father in Washington, D. C. In 1795, he moved to Richmond, Virginia, to study law with John Wickham. He obtained his law license in 1796 and returned to Williamsburg to begin his career.

During 1798-1800, Tazewell represented James City County in the House of Delegates. He was elected to complete John Marshall's unexpired term in the U. S. House of Representatives---and, following a tie in the electoral college, was almost immediately plunged into settling the debate over whether Thomas Jefferson or Aaron Burr would become the nation's next president.

Tazewell moved to Norfolk in 1802 and married Ann Stratton Nivison (1785-1858), daughter of one of the city's leading lawyers. He remained active in legal affairs and politics and was elected to the U. S. Senate in 1824. In 1834, he was elected Governor of Virginia, but abolitionist furor, Jacksonian politics, and his yearning for domestic tranquility led him to resign in 1836.

Eight of Littleton and Ann Tazewell's children lived to adulthood: Louisa (b. 1804), Henry, John, Sarah Ann ("Sally")(1812-1893), Littleton, Jr. (1815-1848), Ann (b. 1817), Mary (b. 1822), and Ella. The large frame house in Norfolk, occupied by the family from the 1820s, still stands.
Provenance:The drawing is listed as "unlocated" in Ellen G. Miles, Saint-Mémin and the Neoclassical Profile Portrait in America (Washington, DC: National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994), entry no. 810 on p. 403, where its provenance is given as "W. N. Waller, Norfolk, Virginia, the sitter's grandson." [Per information from the present owner, this would have been William Nivison Waller, Sr., 1858-1924].

The drawing appears to have descended from the subject to his grandson, William Nivison Waller, Sr. (1858-1924); to his son, William Nivison Waller, Jr. (1888-1956); to his wife, Mrs. William Nivison Waller, Jr. (Edith Hyslop)(d. 1986); to her nephew, the present owner.
Mark(s):No watermark noted upon examination on light table 5/9/2003 (P. Young/B. Luck)