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Portrait of Abraham Peirce (1779-1850)

1845
Origin: America, Massachusetts, New Bedford (probably)
Unframed: 16 1/8 x 12 1/8in. (41 x 30.8cm) and Framed: 22 x 18in.
Oil on cardboard, framed and glazed
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1989.100.1
Bust-length portrait of a man with hair combed forward and wearing long, curling sideburns. He wears a white shirt, red-orange stock, pale blue-green vest, and black coat. He poses before a plain dark 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 Abraham Peirce, these show Abraham's wife, Mary Hafford Peirce (1779-1848), the couple's son and daughter-in-law, David R. Peirce (1806-1885) and Sarah Wilbur Peirce (1808-1871), and a son of the latter couple, Walter Adams Peirce (1838-1913). A bust to half-length pose that excluded hands was the cheapest option Prior offered in full-scale portraiture.
Provenance:Currier (see "Vendor") stated that he acquired this portrait and its companions (1989.100.2 through 1989.100.5) from a descendant of the sitter: a sister of Arthur Thomas Peirce (b. 1915) of Berkley, Mass.
Inscription(s):On the backboard is painted, "Hon Mr Abraham Peirce Age 66/in July 8 last/By Wm. M. Prior 1845."