Limners of Colonial America / by Caitlin Murray

The Beardsley Limner

The Beardsley Limner was an itinerant artist who worked along the old Boston Post Road, in Connecticut and Massachusetts, from about 1785 to 1805. He executed some of the most striking naive portraits in New England, and was given the name The Beardsley Limner based on his handsome paintings of Elizabeth and Hezekiah Beardsley, c. 1785-1790.

Recently it has been argued that The Beardsley Limner and a Connecticut pastelist, Sarah Perkins, were one and the same. While some stylistic similarities exist between the two, there are sufficient differences to raise questions about this identification. To date no documentation of The Beardsley Limner's identity has been found in any of the sitters' records.

Charles Adams Wheeler c. 1790 oil on canvas overall: 107.3 x 76.8 cm (42 1/4 x 30 1/4 in.) framed: 118.7 x 87.9 x 5.4 cm (46 3/4 x 34 5/8 x 2 1/8 in.) Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch 1953.5.57

Charles Adams Wheeler
c. 1790
oil on canvas
overall: 107.3 x 76.8 cm (42 1/4 x 30 1/4 in.)
framed: 118.7 x 87.9 x 5.4 cm (46 3/4 x 34 5/8 x 2 1/8 in.)
Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch
1953.5.57

Girl in a Pink Dress c. 1790 oil on canvas overall: 101.8 x 72.1 cm (40 1/16 x 28 3/8 in.) framed: 112.7 x 83.2 x 4.2 cm (44 3/8 x 32 3/4 x 1 5/8 in.) Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch 1953.5.24

Girl in a Pink Dress
c. 1790
oil on canvas
overall: 101.8 x 72.1 cm (40 1/16 x 28 3/8 in.)
framed: 112.7 x 83.2 x 4.2 cm (44 3/8 x 32 3/4 x 1 5/8 in.)
Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch
1953.5.24

The Conant Limner

Approximately eleven portraits can be attributed to this unidentified painter. His identification as The Conant Limner is derived from the last name of four sitters who constitute the largest family group by his hand. The Conants lived in Sterling, Massachusetts, where several of this limner's works remain. Although likenesses by this hand have turned up in other regions of Massachusetts, all may have originated in the vicinity of Sterling, in Worcester County.

The Conant Limner is not known to have dated any works. From the sitters' attire, consistent in style, it appears that the portraits were painted within a limited span of years. The National Gallery likeness of Sophia Burpee Conant, datable to about 1813 on the basis of her biography, forms a reference point for dating the other portraits and the period in which the artist was active.

Schematic shadows, such as those cast by lace collars, and simplification of form suggest that the artist, in addition to portraiture, perhaps painted signs or other decorative pieces. The artist has sometimes been referred to as "The Merrimac Limner," based on the single example in a private collection said to have been acquired in the northern part of the state in Ipswich. The existence of the greater number of works from the central region of the state, however, suggests that the designation Merrimac Limner is inappropriate and may be misleading. 

Sophia Burpee Conant c. 1813 oil on canvas overall: 56.2 x 43.2 cm (22 1/8 x 17 in.) framed: 68.6 x 55.2 x 6.9 cm (27 x 21 3/4 x 2 11/16 in.) Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch 1953.5.44  SOPHIA BURPEE WAS A SCHOOLGIRL artist, recognized for a needlework picture and several watercolors of pastoral subjects, as well as two hand firescreens painted with fruit and floral designs. She was the seventh child and third daughter of Revolutionary War veteran Corporal Moses Burpee and Elizabeth Kendall, and was born in the town of Sterling in Worcester County, Massachusetts, in 1788.  On 14 November 1813, Sophia was wed to Samuel Conant, Jr. (1780-1824), also of Sterling, whose brother Jacob had married her sister Relief three years earlier. Sophia died less than a year after her marriage, possibly from "typhus," which claimed the lives of Relief and Samuel's sister Polly the same year.  The artist who painted this portrait of Sophia also made Samuel's likeness. He is depicted holding a pink rose, a highly unusual motif in male portraiture, which suggests, along with the white roses in Sophia's hair, that their wedding may have occasioned these portraits.  At first glance, The Conant Limner's portraits of Sophia, Relief, and four other women seem nearly indistinguishable.  All wear the same lace-trimmed, Em pire style peach-colored dress and are identically posed. Upon closer inspection, however, slight differences in facial features become apparent and small variations in jewelry, props, and positioning of the hand emerge. The unidentified young woman whose portrait is also at Sterling, like Sophia, holds a fan, but unlike Sophia, her hand is not raised.  This painter's use of a formula in composition and body type from portrait to portrait was a common practice among even the best known itinerants, such as Ammi Phillips (q.v.) and Erastus Salisbury Field (q.v.). It suggests that the artist lacked formal training in portraiture, a suggestion borne out by Sophia Burpee Conant's awkward anatomy and simplified shading. The artist's greatest attention appears to have been devoted to the lace, which is delicately painted with slight impasto. With its saw-toothed border, this lace, along with Sophia's fancy tendriled hairstyle, imparts a decorative aspect to an otherwise plain Massachusetts portrait.

Sophia Burpee Conant
c. 1813
oil on canvas
overall: 56.2 x 43.2 cm (22 1/8 x 17 in.)
framed: 68.6 x 55.2 x 6.9 cm (27 x 21 3/4 x 2 11/16 in.)
Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch
1953.5.44

SOPHIA BURPEE WAS A SCHOOLGIRL artist, recognized for a needlework picture and several watercolors of pastoral subjects, as well as two hand firescreens painted with fruit and floral designs. She was the seventh child and third daughter of Revolutionary War veteran Corporal Moses Burpee and Elizabeth Kendall, and was born in the town of Sterling in Worcester County, Massachusetts, in 1788.

On 14 November 1813, Sophia was wed to Samuel Conant, Jr. (1780-1824), also of Sterling, whose brother Jacob had married her sister Relief three years earlier. Sophia died less than a year after her marriage, possibly from "typhus," which claimed the lives of Relief and Samuel's sister Polly the same year.

The artist who painted this portrait of Sophia also made Samuel's likeness. He is depicted holding a pink rose, a highly unusual motif in male portraiture, which suggests, along with the white roses in Sophia's hair, that their wedding may have occasioned these portraits.

At first glance, The Conant Limner's portraits of Sophia, Relief, and four other women seem nearly indistinguishable.

All wear the same lace-trimmed, Em pire style peach-colored dress and are identically posed.
Upon closer inspection, however, slight differences in facial features become apparent and small variations in jewelry, props, and positioning of the hand emerge. The unidentified young woman whose portrait is also at Sterling, like Sophia, holds a fan, but unlike Sophia, her hand is not raised.

This painter's use of a formula in composition and body type from portrait to portrait was a common practice among even the best known itinerants, such as Ammi Phillips (q.v.) and Erastus Salisbury Field (q.v.). It suggests that the artist lacked formal training in portraiture, a suggestion borne out by Sophia Burpee Conant's awkward anatomy and simplified shading. The artist's greatest attention appears to have been devoted to the lace, which is delicately painted with slight impasto. With its saw-toothed border, this lace, along with Sophia's fancy tendriled hairstyle, imparts a decorative aspect to an otherwise plain Massachusetts portrait.

The Denison Limner

The identity of the artist who created the Denison family portraits has long eluded scholars. His sitters are all from Stonington, Connecticut, and their portraits are part of the tradition of Connecticut portraiture that flourished from c. 1790/1810.

One of the first to suggest an identity for The Denison Limner was Ralph Thomas of the New Haven Historical Society, who concluded in 1956 that the Denison portraits given to the National Gallery by Colonel and Mrs. Garbisch (1953.5.35, 1980.62.26-28) were painted by Joseph Steward. Steward was an artist, clergyman, and entrepreneur who was born in Worcester County, Massachusetts, in 1753. He studied for the ministry under the Reverend Doctor Levi Hart of Preston, Connecticut, and subsequently settled with his wife and children in the town of Hampton. By 1797 the family had moved to Hartford, where Steward established a museum of "natural curiosities and paintings," which he operated until his death in 1822. Among the works he exhibited were portraits of American historical and political figures, some painted by Steward himself.

The most persuasive argument for attributing the Denison works to Steward is their similarity to a pair of portraits assigned to Steward on the basis of a notice in the account book of one of the sitters. In September 1789, Mrs. Steward settled a bill with John Avery of Preston for "2 likenesses [pound sign] 5/4/0." The portraits in question, Mrs. John (Lucy Ayer) Avery and John Avery are very similar in appearance to the Denison portraits.

The Averys' home town in eastern Connecticut is less than fifteen miles north of Stonington. Another pair of portraits of Preston residents attributed to Steward--Wheeler Coit and Mrs. Wheeler (Sybil Tracy) Coit-- also shares many characteristics with the Denison portraits. The Coit and Avery pairs have similar dimensions.

These earlier works (c. 1789/1790) differ from Steward's slightly later portraits; these exhibit a more sophisticated technique. This substantial change of style over a short period of time in itself does not discount the possibility that Steward was the maker of both types, because rapid progress is not unheard of in the careers of naive painters. One of Steward's friends, the Reverend James Cogswell, recorded in 1790 that the artist "improves in ye art of painting," although he gave no evidence of specific training the artist had. Around 1791 or 1792, but almost certainly not before, Steward would have crossed paths with the important Connecticut portraitist Ralph Earl. In 1792 he may have taken some lessons from John Trumbull, whose work he later would often copy. These influences therefore could have greatly transformed Steward's style between 1789 and 1793. He seems to have been a highly adaptable and flexible artist. Throughout his career his approach varied, almost chameleonlike, depending upon his subject, the purpose of the portrait undertaken, and which artist he may have been copying or emulating.

It has also been suggested that the painter of the Denison group might be Captain Elisha Denison, since the portrait of his son shows the young boy holding a card which prominently displays his father's name. Because the sitters are all from the same family, this possibility cannot be discounted. 

Captain Elisha Denison c. 1790 Oil on canvas, 86.4 x 68.9 (34 x 2.7 Vs) Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch   

Captain Elisha Denison
c. 1790
Oil on canvas, 86.4 x 68.9 (34 x 2.7 Vs)
Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch

 

Mrs. Elizabeth Noyes Denison c. 1790 Oil on canvas, 86.7 x 68.7 (34^8 x 17 Vie) Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch  PORTRAIT PAINTING FLOURISHED in Connecticut after the Revolution due to the emergence of new roads, towns, and a growing prosperous middle class. As these portraits suggest, sitters were interested in recording for posterity a detailed depiction of their life, possessions, and environment. Captain Denison is shown at his writing table in front of a landscape that probably represents his home and property in Stonington, Connecticut. In contrast, the background landscape in Elizabeth Noyes Denison is imaginary, probably chosen to give the sitter aristocratic status by evoking an eighteenth-century European estate.  Captain Elisha Denison was baptized on 3 November 1751 and died in 1841. On 26 April 1771, he married Elizabeth Noyes Denison (1750-1831) of Stonington, Connecticut, one of eight children of James Noyes and Grace Billings. They had four children, whose portraits were also executed by The Denison Limner: Elizabeth, Matilda, Elisha, and Phebe. Elisha Denison may be the captain who commanded a Cornet of Horses for the eighth regiment in May of 1775. One history mentions that Captain Denison was appointed to collect money for the families of officers and soldiers of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.  In Captain Denison's portrait the artist offers a fresh, straightforward likeness of a self-satisfied, comfortable citizen of the newly independent nation. His wife's  tight-lipped, stern expression and direct gaze reveal a strong personality. The painter worked in a controlled, linear manner, carefully filling the canvases with objects and large areas of bright color. As in the other portraits by The Denison Limner, Captain and Mrs. Denison's figures are anatomically awkward, but their faces show a greater degree of naturalism. Although it is not clear how much communication there was among the colonial artists of Connecticut, it is certain that by the last two decades of the eighteenth century many knew each other's work. Similar techniques, compositions, and poses appear in their paintings:  The individualized, biographical landscape background seen in Captain Elisha Denison, for instance, was perfected by Ralph Earl (1751-1801) and is found in other Connecticut paintings such as Winthrop Chandler's portrait of Captain Samuel Chandler

Mrs. Elizabeth Noyes Denison
c. 1790
Oil on canvas, 86.7 x 68.7 (34^8 x 17 Vie)
Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch

PORTRAIT PAINTING FLOURISHED in Connecticut after the Revolution due to the emergence of new roads, towns, and a growing prosperous middle class. As these portraits suggest, sitters were interested in recording for posterity a detailed depiction of their life, possessions, and environment. Captain Denison is shown at his writing table in front of a landscape that probably represents his home and property in Stonington, Connecticut. In contrast, the background landscape in Elizabeth Noyes Denison is imaginary, probably chosen to give the sitter aristocratic status by evoking an eighteenth-century European estate.

Captain Elisha Denison was baptized on 3 November 1751 and died in 1841. On 26 April 1771, he married Elizabeth Noyes Denison (1750-1831) of Stonington, Connecticut, one of eight children of James Noyes and Grace Billings. They had four children, whose portraits were also executed by The Denison Limner: Elizabeth, Matilda, Elisha, and Phebe. Elisha Denison may be the captain who commanded a Cornet of Horses for the eighth regiment in May of 1775. One history mentions that Captain Denison was appointed to collect money for the families of officers and soldiers of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.

In Captain Denison's portrait the artist offers a fresh, straightforward likeness of a self-satisfied, comfortable citizen of the newly independent nation. His wife's  tight-lipped, stern expression and direct gaze reveal a strong personality. The painter worked in a controlled, linear manner, carefully filling the canvases with objects and large areas of bright color. As in the other portraits by The Denison Limner, Captain and Mrs. Denison's figures are anatomically awkward, but their faces show a greater degree of naturalism. Although it is not clear how much communication there was among the colonial artists of Connecticut, it is certain that by the last two decades of the eighteenth century many knew each other's work. Similar techniques, compositions, and poses appear in their paintings:

The individualized, biographical landscape background seen in Captain Elisha Denison, for instance, was perfected by Ralph Earl (1751-1801) and is found in other Connecticut paintings such as Winthrop Chandler's portrait of Captain Samuel Chandler

Elizabeth Denison c. 1790 Oil on canvas, 85-4X 67.6 (33s/8 x i65/s) Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch  THE PROVENANCE OF THIS PORTRAIT suggests that its subject is Elizabeth Denison (1773-1849), the eldest child of Captain Elisha Denison and Elizabeth Noyes Denison. In 1793 the younger Elizabeth married Nathaniel Ledyard, in whose family the portrait descended. In style and dimensions the painting corresponds to the other five Denison family portraits.   This painting and the portrait of Miss Denison (1980.61.18) have the simplest compositions of the group, lacking the detailed landscape background that appears in the other Denison portraits. Elizabeth Denison is seated in a Chippendale chair, identical to the one in the portraits of her parents and sister. Her arm  rests on what appears to be a dressing table, draped with fabric that realistically gives way under the weight of her hand. The flowers that adorn her head and bodice are likely made of linen, as described in at least one late eighteenth-century account.  Although there is little penetration of character in this portrait, the artist has carefully rendered Elizabeth's facial features and attempted to give them a sense of volume. Her clothing, however, is painted less distinctly with broad, somewhat loose strokes, despite the inclusion of drapery folds and the attempt to show diaphanous material. Anatomical features such as her shoulders, breast, and hands are awkwardly depicted.  This portrait, formerly titled Lady with a Plumed Headdress,  has been published as a youthful work by Gilbert Stuart. This attribution apparently resulted from the Denison family's confusion between the similar sounding name of Joseph Steward and his more illustrious counterpart.

Elizabeth Denison
c. 1790
Oil on canvas, 85-4X 67.6 (33s/8 x i65/s)
Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch

THE PROVENANCE OF THIS PORTRAIT suggests that its subject is Elizabeth Denison (1773-1849), the eldest child of Captain Elisha Denison and Elizabeth Noyes Denison. In 1793 the younger Elizabeth married Nathaniel Ledyard, in whose family the portrait descended. In style and dimensions the painting corresponds to the other five Denison family portraits. 

This painting and the portrait of Miss Denison (1980.61.18) have the simplest compositions of the group, lacking the detailed landscape background that appears in the other Denison portraits. Elizabeth Denison is seated in a Chippendale chair, identical to the one in the portraits of her parents and sister. Her arm  rests on what appears to be a dressing table, draped with fabric that realistically gives way under the weight of her hand. The flowers that adorn her head and bodice are likely made of linen, as described in at least one late eighteenth-century account.

Although there is little penetration of character in this portrait, the artist has carefully rendered Elizabeth's facial features and attempted to give them a sense of volume. Her clothing, however, is painted less distinctly with broad, somewhat loose strokes, despite the inclusion of drapery folds and the attempt to show diaphanous material. Anatomical features such as her shoulders, breast, and hands are awkwardly depicted.

This portrait, formerly titled Lady with a Plumed Headdress,  has been published as a youthful work by Gilbert Stuart. This attribution apparently resulted from the Denison family's confusion between the similar sounding name of Joseph Steward and his more illustrious counterpart.

Miss Denison of Stonington Connecticut (possibly Matilda Denison) c. 1790 Oil on canvas, 87.7 x 68.7 (34 1/2 x 27) Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch  ALTHOUGH SHE WAS PREVIOUSLY identified as Phebe Denison, genealogical records and the apparent age of the sitter suggest that this may be a portrait of Matilda, Phebe's older sister.  Matilda, the second child of Captain Elisha Denison and Elizabeth Noyes Denison, was born on 5 September 1776 and died on 13 January 1842. In 1796 she married Samuel Hurlbut, a ship chandler, ship owner, and merchant, and the couple had ten children. Matilda's sister Phebe, Captain and Elizabeth Denison's youngest child, was born on 22 April 1781 and died 31 December 1853. She married W J. Robinson, with whom she resided in Morristown, New Jersey. They, too, had ten children.  As was common in eighteenth-century portrait painting, the sitter is pictured with her pets, a bird and a squirrel. The long-eared squirrel is, however, a species native to Europe, not America. It is likely that this  animal was copied from an eighteenth-century emblem book. One such volume describes the meaning of such a symbol: "A Squirrel taking the Meat out of a Chestnut. Not without Trouble. An Emblem that—Nothing that's worthy having can be obtained without Trouble and Difficulty."   Miss Denison appears to have been singled out, among her siblings, for this special reminder of the virtues of patience. While Miss Denison's figure is awkwardly drawn, her expression, with its direct gaze and hint of a smile, along with her intriguing plumed hat make this an attractive example of early American portraiture. The plain background helps to emphasize the decorative composition, concentrating on several sweeping curves, accentuated by the linear style and bright, contrasting colors.

Miss Denison of Stonington Connecticut (possibly Matilda Denison)
c. 1790
Oil on canvas, 87.7 x 68.7 (34 1/2 x 27)
Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch

ALTHOUGH SHE WAS PREVIOUSLY identified as Phebe Denison, genealogical records and the apparent age of the sitter suggest that this may be a portrait of Matilda, Phebe's older sister.  Matilda, the second child of Captain Elisha Denison and Elizabeth Noyes Denison, was born on 5 September 1776 and died on 13 January 1842. In 1796 she married Samuel Hurlbut, a ship chandler, ship owner, and merchant, and the couple had ten children. Matilda's sister Phebe, Captain and Elizabeth Denison's youngest child, was born on 22 April 1781 and died 31 December 1853. She married W J. Robinson, with whom she resided in Morristown, New Jersey. They, too, had ten children.

As was common in eighteenth-century portrait painting, the sitter is pictured with her pets, a bird and a squirrel. The long-eared squirrel is, however, a species native to Europe, not America. It is likely that this  animal was copied from an eighteenth-century emblem book. One such volume describes the meaning of such a symbol: "A Squirrel taking the Meat out of a Chestnut. Not without Trouble. An Emblem that—Nothing that's worthy having can be obtained without Trouble and Difficulty." 

Miss Denison appears to have been singled out, among her siblings, for this special reminder of the virtues of patience. While Miss Denison's figure is awkwardly drawn, her expression, with its direct gaze and hint of a smile, along with her intriguing plumed hat make this an attractive example of early American portraiture. The plain background helps to emphasize the decorative composition, concentrating on several sweeping curves, accentuated by the linear style and bright, contrasting colors.

The Gansevoort Limner

The designation "Gansevoort Limner" was given to the unknown painter of a stylistically coherent group of portraits depicting members of the Gansevoort family. The majority of his sitters were children, and several of his portraits are inscribed in either Dutch or Latin.

Mary Black has identified The Gansevoort Limner as Pieter Vanderlyn, which some scholars accept. No signed portraits by Vanderlyn exist, however, and over the years controversy has continued over Vanderlyn's identity and oeuvre. Local tradition originally ascribed a number of The Gansevoort Limner portraits to Vanderlyn; descendants of the subjects believed him to be the creator of their family portraits, and the Kingston, New York, Senate House Historical Site owns several portraits that have been recorded as Vanderlyn's work. Confusion arose with the publication of articles ascribing a completely different series of works to Vanderlyn's hand. A group of portraits are now given to The Schuyler or Aetatis Suae Limner. Additional attributions were also made, all based on a "key picture," the portrait of Mrs. Petrus Vas, which John Vanderlyn, Pieter's grandson, reportedly represented to his biographer as a work by Pieter. However, these attributions are not documented and rest on uncertain, oral tradition.

Black first isolated a group of eighteen portraits by an artist identified only as The Gansevoort Limner. Later she published her conclusion that The Gansevoort Limner was Pieter Vanderlyn, based on the fact that a group of Kingston portraits by The Gansevoort Limner (including several from the Kingston Senate House Historical Site) were originally attributed by local tradition to Vanderlyn. She discovered a manuscript by Vanderlyn in handwriting that appeared to match seven of the eight inscriptions appearing on Gansevoort Limner paintings. This Kingston group and the National Gallery's portraits form a coherent stylistic group and are clearly by the same hand. Black disputed the attributions of the portrait of Mrs. Petrus Vas to Vanderlyn. Another family tradition held that a companion portrait of Dominie Petrus Vas was lost in the 1777 Kingston fire. Black speculated that the lost male portrait was the one painted by Vanderlyn, rather than the female one, engendering the string of mistaken attributions that followed. Black's discovery about Vanderlyn's signature is intriguing, but some scholars dispute the validity of attributions based on matching scripts, arguing that eighteenth-century handwriting was of a standard style.

Until further evidence comes to light, it cannot be said with complete certainty that The Gansevoort Limner is Pieter Vanderlyn. If this identification is correct, The Gansevoort Limner was born in Holland about 1687, coming to New York from Curaçao around 1718. He traveled frequently between Albany and Kingston until 1777, then moved to Shawangunk, New York. He died there in 1778.

Susanna Truax 1730 Oil on bed ticking, 95.9 x 83.8 (37 }/4 x 3i7/s) Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch  Inscriptions At upper left: Susanna Truax / Gebooren den 8 1726, Geschilderd, Maart, 1730  ACCORDING TO HER DESCENDANTS, Susanna Truax, the daughter of Abraham Truax and Christina De La Grange of Albany, was born on 7 November 1726 (a day before the birthdate inscribed on her portrait). Her grandfather, Isaac, had settled in Schenectady, a prosperous Dutch settlement, around 1670. Susanna Truax, who never married, died on 4 March 1805.  This painting, executed when the sitter was four years old, is one of the most successful works by The Gansevoort Limner. The domestic interior, awkward but lively pose, suggestion of a smile, direct glance, and colorful striped dress and shoes make this an attractive  and approachable portrait. Susanna's earth-toned dress is an example of contemporary fashion in the Dutch settlements and is similar to the one worn in The Gansevoort Limner's Miss Veder. The necklace, or a variant, appears in several other portraits by the artist, for example, Miss Van Alen (1956.13.14). A similar interior setting is used in Helena Sleight Janson^ Susanna's spoon appears to contain a lump of sugar which she is about to use with her tea. An eighteenth-century Swedish traveler reported that the Dutch colonists " never put sugar into the cup, but take a small bit of it into their mouths while they drink."  Although the portrait is flatly painted with almost no suggestion of volume, typical of this artist's work, the carefully executed lace and diaphanous material in the sleeves and apron attempt to duplicate fabric textures faithfully. Susanna Truax belongs to the tradition of Dutch Patroon portraiture which flourished in the Hudson Valley from around 1700 to 1750. Dutch influence can be seen in the realistic depiction of the everyday setting and in the painting's informality and apparent simplicity. These contrast with the more stilted and courtly portraits derived from the English tradition via prints.

Susanna Truax
1730
Oil on bed ticking, 95.9 x 83.8 (37 }/4 x 3i7/s)
Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch

Inscriptions
At upper left: Susanna Truax / Gebooren den 8 1726, Geschilderd, Maart, 1730

ACCORDING TO HER DESCENDANTS, Susanna Truax, the daughter of Abraham Truax and Christina De La Grange of Albany, was born on 7 November 1726 (a day before the birthdate inscribed on her portrait). Her grandfather, Isaac, had settled in Schenectady, a prosperous Dutch settlement, around 1670. Susanna Truax, who never married, died on 4 March 1805.

This painting, executed when the sitter was four years old, is one of the most successful works by The Gansevoort Limner. The domestic interior, awkward but lively pose, suggestion of a smile, direct glance, and colorful striped dress and shoes make this an attractive  and approachable portrait. Susanna's earth-toned dress is an example of contemporary fashion in the Dutch settlements and is similar to the one worn in The Gansevoort Limner's Miss Veder. The necklace, or a variant, appears in several other portraits by the artist, for example, Miss Van Alen (1956.13.14). A similar interior setting is used in Helena Sleight Janson^ Susanna's spoon appears to contain a lump of sugar which she is about to use with her tea. An eighteenth-century Swedish traveler reported that the Dutch colonists " never put sugar into the cup, but take a small bit of it into their mouths while they drink."

Although the portrait is flatly painted with almost no suggestion of volume, typical of this artist's work, the carefully executed lace and diaphanous material in the sleeves and apron attempt to duplicate fabric textures faithfully. Susanna Truax belongs to the tradition of Dutch Patroon portraiture which flourished in the Hudson Valley from around 1700 to 1750. Dutch influence can be seen in the realistic depiction of the everyday setting and in the painting's informality and apparent simplicity. These contrast with the more stilted and courtly portraits derived from the English tradition via prints.

Miss Van Alen c.1735 Oil on canvas, 79.2.x 66.4 (31 x 26) Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch  THE S I T T E R ' S G R A N D F A T H E R , Lourens Van Alen, bought land in Columbia County, New York (then part of the de Bruyn Patent), in 1707. Two of his six sons residing in the area had daughters who could have been the subject of this portrait. Since neither the date of this painting nor the sitter's age can be determined exactly, it is impossible to identify which family member is depicted. Furthermore, ancestral wills and correspondence mention several family portraits. The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center owns a nearly identical portrait of a Miss Van Alen (c. 1735, 33^4 x 2.6in.) by The Gansevoort Limner. Previously, the sitters had been identified as twins. This relationship cannot be confirmed, however, and genealogies do not record twins in the Van Alen family until later in the eighteenth century.  The Gansevoort Limner's  Young Lady with Ros e of 1731 (MMA) is also very similar to the two Miss Van Alen portraits. All three paintings exhibit broad, flat brushwork, thinly applied earth-toned colors, plain backgrounds, and an absence of modeling. The three sitters' costumes, poses, hairstyles, jewelry, and roses are almost identical. Thirteen of the eighteen Gansevoort Limner portraits identified by Mary Black in 1969 include a rose, a favorite flower of colonial artists.   Miss Van Alen  is one of The Gansevoort Limner's simpler compositions. The background lacks the curtain, interior setting, or landscape common in many of his paintings,10 and the sitter's unadorned dress is painted without modeling or drapery folds.

Miss Van Alen
c.1735
Oil on canvas, 79.2.x 66.4 (31 x 26)
Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch

THE S I T T E R ' S G R A N D F A T H E R , Lourens Van Alen, bought land in Columbia County, New York (then part of the de Bruyn Patent), in 1707. Two of his six sons residing in the area had daughters who could have been the subject of this portrait. Since neither the date of this painting nor the sitter's age can be determined exactly, it is impossible to identify which family member is depicted. Furthermore, ancestral wills and correspondence mention several family portraits. The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center owns a nearly identical portrait of a Miss Van Alen (c. 1735, 33^4 x 2.6in.) by The Gansevoort Limner. Previously, the sitters had been identified as twins. This relationship cannot be confirmed, however, and genealogies do not record twins in the Van Alen family until later in the eighteenth century.

The Gansevoort Limner's Young Lady with Rose of 1731 (MMA) is also very similar to the two Miss Van Alen portraits. All three paintings exhibit broad, flat brushwork, thinly applied earth-toned colors, plain backgrounds, and an absence of modeling. The three sitters' costumes, poses, hairstyles, jewelry, and roses are almost identical. Thirteen of the eighteen Gansevoort Limner portraits identified by Mary Black in 1969 include a rose, a favorite flower of colonial artists.

Miss Van Alen is one of The Gansevoort Limner's simpler compositions. The background lacks the curtain, interior setting, or landscape common in many of his paintings,10 and the sitter's unadorned dress is painted without modeling or drapery folds.

Young Lady with a Fan 1737 Oil on canvas, 96.6x80.7(38 x 31 1/4) Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch  THE INSCRIPTION INDICATES that the unidentified young woman in this portrait is nineteen years old. Her delicate linear features, fine hair, stiff pose, and the portrait's muted colors are characteristic of the artist's work. The bright red touches in the bodice of her dress and the roses in the window enliven the otherwise subtle colors. Many of The Gansevoort Limner's female sitters are portrayed in similar costume, not only helping to distinguish the artist's work, but also documenting a type of dress of the period. The sitter appears to be wearing a "silk wrapping gown held at the waist with a decorative belt and buckle. She wears a very fine chemise edged with a narrow band of bobbin lace at the neck and cuffs and a very smart stomacher that is probably decorated with fine silk cords couched in a diaper pattern." The costly fabric, which appears to be silk, would have been imported from Europe or via the Dutch East India Company and her fan would have been specially ordered or brought over as a present.  Certain aspects of the young lady's appearance, such as the hairstyle and gold earrings, are clearly Dutch in origin.  What appears to be a contemporary Dutch Bible with brass mounts is seen on the table beside the sitter. Although the foreground space is rendered two-dimensionally, the receding row of trees and their shadows creates a sense of distance in the background.

Young Lady with a Fan
1737
Oil on canvas, 96.6x80.7(38 x 31 1/4)
Gift of Edgar William and Bernice Chrysler Garbisch

THE INSCRIPTION INDICATES that the unidentified young woman in this portrait is nineteen years old. Her delicate linear features, fine hair, stiff pose, and the portrait's muted colors are characteristic of the artist's work. The bright red touches in the bodice of her dress and the roses in the window enliven the otherwise subtle colors. Many of The Gansevoort Limner's female sitters are portrayed in similar costume, not only helping to distinguish the artist's work, but also documenting a type of dress of the period. The sitter appears to be wearing a "silk wrapping gown held at the waist with a decorative belt and buckle. She wears a very fine chemise edged with a narrow band of bobbin lace at the neck and cuffs and a very smart stomacher that is probably decorated with fine silk cords couched in a diaper pattern." The costly fabric, which appears to be silk, would have been imported from Europe or via the Dutch East India Company and her fan would have been specially ordered or brought over as a present.

Certain aspects of the young lady's appearance, such as the hairstyle and gold earrings, are clearly Dutch in origin.

What appears to be a contemporary Dutch Bible with brass mounts is seen on the table beside the sitter. Although the foreground space is rendered two-dimensionally, the receding row of trees and their shadows creates a sense of distance in the background.