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Inscription

falsely signed and dated, lower right: P. Pelham pinx. 1729

Provenance

(Rose M. de Forest, New York); sold 16 November 1930 to Thomas B. Clarke [1848-1931], New York, as a portrait of Jonathan Law by Peter Pelham;[1] sold by Clarke's executors to (M. Knoedler & Co., New York); purchased 29 January 1936, as part of the Clarke collection, by The A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, Pittsburgh; gift 1947 to NGA.

Bibliography
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: 308, 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: 308-309, repro. 309.
Technical Summary

The canvas is plain woven; it has been lined. The ground appears to be buff-gray, thinly applied. There is a feigned oval format in the bottom corners. The painting is executed thinly, with some texture in the face and cravat, and brushstrokes generally evident; the hair is tightly painted, with a visible dark outline around it. The painting is in good condition, with minimal retouching. The "signature" is reinforced, but the original application is consistent with the surrounding crackle pattern and may be, if not original, of close age to the painting; however, a harsh cleaning test could have caused leaching of the lower layer into local cracks to give this impression.[1] The thick, natural resin varnish has discolored yellow to a moderate degree.

[1] This test was conducted in 1968; it reported that the canvas was very worn in the area and concluded that "if the signature were original, the abrasion would have passed through it," which was not the case (memorandum, 17 December 1968, in NGA curatorial files).