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Inscription

falsely signed and dated, reverse in ink: John Watson / 1731

Provenance

(Rose M. [Mrs. Augustus] de Forest, New York); sold 16 January 1923 to Thomas B. Clarke [1848-1931], New York, as a portrait of Sir Peter Warren by John Watson;[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
1924
Exhibition of the Earliest Known Portraits of Americans by Painters of the Seventeenth, Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, The Union League Club, New York, March 1924, no. 1, as Sir Peter Warren by John Watson.
1925
A Loan Exhibition of the Earliest Known Portraits of Americans Painted in This Country by Painters of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, The Century Association, New York, 1925, no. 13, as Sir Peter Warren by John Watson.
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 Sir Peter Warren by John Watson.
Bibliography
1932
Sherman, Frederic Fairchild. Early American Painting. New York and London, 1932: 17-18, pl. 8.
1970
American Paintings and Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1970: 160, repro., as Portrait of a Man by American (?).
1980
American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1980: 309, as Portrait of a Man by Unknown [Formerly Considered American].
1985
European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 412, repro., as Portrait of a Man by Unknown Nationality 18th Century.
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: 307-308, repro. 308.
Technical Summary

The medium-weight canvas is plain woven; it has not been lined and the tacking margins survive intact. The stretcher is made of Eastern white pine, a native American species.[1] The painting is executed fairly thinly with very low impasto in the highlights. The paint surface is badly abraded, and there are many losses resulting from the weakness of the canvas, which has several tears and is extremely brittle at the corners; there is heavy retouching in the hands, along the lower part of the painting, and in the upper right corner. The thick, natural resin varnish has discolored to a significant degree.

[1]. B. F. Kukachka, in charge of wood identification research in the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, to William P. Campbell, 4 June 1968, in NGA curatorial files.