Manner of Ammi Phillips
"Portrait of a Gentleman in a White Linen Cravat"
oil on canvas
second or third quarter 19th century, unsigned.
29-3/4" x 24-1/8", framed 33-1/2" x 28"
Provenance: Estate of Dr. George Porter III, New Orleans, Louisiana.
Notes: The majority of early Colonial American portraits were unsigned works completed by itinerant artists who traveled a circuit of New England and Mid-Atlantic states. It is, therefore, often difficult to definitively attribute a portrait to a specific artist except for the few rare occasions where there exists contemporaneous documentation in the form of letters, receipts, or even diary entries. It is not unusual for a portrait to have been ascribed for decades as the work of one artist, only for newly unearthed writings to reveal it is the work of another.
The wonderful example of early American portraiture presented here, of an unidentified man, is indicative of the works produced by such itinerant artists, and is especially reminiscent of the portraits by Ammi Phillips. The assertive, direct gaze, strongly delineated facial features, the empty, darkened background, and the somewhat blockish approach to the body are all characteristics of Phillips' work as seen in such portraits as "Colonel Nathan Beckwith" at the Brooklyn Museum, New York, or "Portrait of Henry Teller", National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.