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Portrait of Dr. Elisha Hall (1754-1814)

ca. 1795
Origin: America, Virginia, Fredericksburg
Unframed: 30 x 25in. and Framed: 37 5/8 x 32 11/16 x 2 3/4in.
Oil on canvas
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 2004-61,A&B
A half-length portrait of a man, seated, with his proper right arm resting on the top of a table, of which only a portion of the top is visible. His proper left hand is thrust beneath his partially unbuttoned waistcoat. A quill and ink stand rest on the table near his elbow, an open, addressed letter is on the table closer to the viewer. He weas a tan (probably broadcloth) coat with turned down collar, turned back cuffs, and large silver-colored (probably pewter) buttons; a white neckcloth; and a cream-colored waistcoat bearing floral and foliage embroidered designs running parallel to its front edges. He has blue eyes, pale blonde hair, and a receding hairline. The background is a warm reddish brown.

The present frame is a period (or slightly later) replacement, a 4 1/8-inch splayed, gilded molding having a stepped, flat inner liner and a quarter-round outer molding.
Label:Originally from Philadelphia, Dr. Elisha Hall lived in Fredericksburg, Virginia, where his patients included George Washington’s mother, Mary Ball Washington. Hall and noted Philadelphia physician Benjamin Rush were first cousins. In 1789, Hall sought Rush’s advice on treatment for Mrs. Washington’s breast cancer. Rush wrote that “there does not exist in the vegetable kingdom an antidote to cancers.” Mrs. Washington died a month later.

Charles Peale Polk painted these portraits of Hall and his wife, Caroleana Carter Hall, around 1795. Mrs. Hall’s portrait was clearly inspired by the likeness of Rush’s wife, Julia Stockton Rush. Mrs. Rush was depicted by Polk’s uncle, mentor, and painting teacher, Charles Willson Peale, in 1776. At that time, the younger artist lived with his uncle and learned the rudiments of the painting trade.
Provenance:The following line of descent (presumed to apply to both 2004-61 and 2004-62) was constructed in July 2004 based on CWF file notes, Frick Art Reference Library notes, and information provided by the family through which the portraits descended:

From the subject to her son, John Byrd Hall (1787-1862); to his daughter, Charlotte Carter Hall (1st, Mrs. Robert Pryor Hall and, 2nd Mrs. William Elmer)(1820-1909); to her brother, Charles Landon Hall (1837-?); to his brother, Marshall Carter Hall (1843-1906) of Washington, DC; to his son, Marshall Carter Hall II (1883-?) of Washington Grove, Md.; by 1983, to his daughter, Mary Lewis Hall (Mrs. James Carey)(1910-1986) of Baltimore, Md.; by 1999, to her daughter, Anne Thomas Carey (Mrs. William Boucher)(1938-2004), whose estate was sold at Alex Cooper, Auctioneers, Inc., 908 York Rd., Towson, Md., July 18, 2004. The two paintings were acquired by CWF at the sale.

Mark(s):The period replacement frames on both 2004-61 and 2004-62 bear remnants of the same press-printed label, reading, in a reconstruction derived from the two together: "The Veerhoff Galleries/Established 1871/1320 F Street Northwest/Washington, D. C." These partial labels appear on the back of the upper frame member on 2004-61 and on the back of the right (viewer's; from the back) side frame member on 2004-62.
Inscription(s):In black paint in script on an opened letter laid on the table within the composition appears: "To/Doctr Hall,/Fredericksburg". No other original inscriptions found.