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Inscription

falsely signed and dated, upside down on left-hand page of book: R Feke [word illegible] / 1748

Provenance

(Rose M. [Mrs. Augustus] de Forest, New York); sold 19 September 1922 to Thomas B. Clarke [1848-1931], New York, as a portrait of Ruth Cunningham by Robert Feke;[1] sold by Clarke's executors to (M. Knoedler & Co., New York), from whom it was purchased 29 January 1936, as part of the Clarke collection, by The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh; gift to NGA, 1947.

Exhibition History
1923
Exhibition of Portraits by Early American Portrait Painters, The Union League Club, New York, 1923, no. 5, as Ruth Cunningham by Robert Feke.
1926
A Loan Exhibition of Paintings by Early American Portrait Painters, The Century Association, New York, 1926, no. 3, as Ruth Cunningham by Robert Feke.
1928
Portraits by Early American Artists of the Seventeenth, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, Collected by Thomas B. Clarke, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1928-1931, unnumbered and unpaginated catalogue, as Ruth Cunningham by Robert Feke.
1943
New England Painting, 1700-1775, Worcester Art Museum, 1943, no cat.
1969
Extended loan for use by the Secretary, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Washington, D.C., 1969-1973.
1989
Extended loan to Blair House, Washington, D.C., 1989-1990.
Bibliography
1923
Sherman, Frederic F. "Four Examples of American Portraiture." Art in America 11 (1923): 328-333, repro. 329.
1928
Lee, Cuthbert. "The Thomas B. Clarke Collection of Early American Portraits." American Magazine of Art 19 (1928): 300, repro. 296.
1930
Bolton, Theodore and Henry Lorin Binsse. "Robert Feke, First Painter to Colonial Aristocracy." The Antiquarian 15 (1930): 35, repro.
1930
Foote, Henry Wilder. Robert Feke. Cambridge, Mass., 1930: 74-75, 105, 137-138, 211, 213.
1942
Sawitsky, William. Matthew Pratt 1734-1805. New York, 1942: 48-50, pl. 13, details 42, 43.
1943
Burroughs, Alan. Review of Matthew Pratt by Sawitsky 1942. In The Art Bulletin 25 (1943): 280.
1970
American Paintings and Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1970: 142, repro., as by Unknown American.
1980
American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1980: 287, repro., as by Unknown American.
1992
American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 436.
1992
Hayes, John. British Paintings of the Sixteenth through Nineteenth Centuries. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1992: 300-301, repro. 300.
Technical Summary

The canvas is finely plain woven; it has been lined, and there is an interlayer fabric between the two supports. The painting has been enlarged at the top with a strip of additional fabric 6.5 cm. wide. The ground is white, and is coarse and granular. The painting is executed in thin glazes in the hair, the shadows of the flesh and drapery, and the red brocade of the chair back, and in thicker, more opaque layers in the flesh tones and highlights of the costume, with slight impasto in the white fringe of the shawl. The "signature" has been shown to be false since it continues into cracks in the underlying paint film. The paint surface has been severely abraded throughout, especially in the thinly applied glazes in the shadows of the face and hands and in the hair. The abraded eyes, nose, and lips have all been reinforced, and numerous scattered losses in the head have been infilled. Some areas of the drapery have been heavily retouched, and the background has been almost completely repainted. The natural resin varnish has discolored yellow to a moderate degree.