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Inscription

falsely signed and dated, lower right: Jo. Smibert ft., 173[9] (the last digit not fully legible)

Provenance

(Rose M. [Mrs. Augustus] de Forest, New York); sold 13 January 1919 to Thomas B. Clarke [1848-1931], New York, as a portrait of William Shirley by John Smibert;[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
1921
Exhibition of Paintings by Early American Portrait Painters, The Union League Club, New York, November 1921, no. 19, as Governor William Shirley by John Smibert.
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 Governor William Shirley by John Smibert.
1939
American Historical Paintings, Golden Gate International Exposition, San Francisco, 1939, no. 21.
Bibliography
1950
Foote, Henry Wilder. John Smibert. Cambridge, Mass., 1950: 94n., 109, 244.
1970
American Paintings and Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1970: 162, 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: 413, 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: 296-297, repro. 297.
Technical Summary

The medium-weight canvas is plain woven; it has been lined. The ground is pale gray or beige, thinly applied. The painting is executed in smoothly blended layers in the face and hair, with unblended, drier brushwork in the drapery; there is low brushwork texture in most of the lighter areas. The background gray ends in curved forms in the upper corners, as if the painting were meant to be an oval. The "signature" was found in 1965 to be a recent addition, applied over already abraded paint and readily soluble. The contours of the face and cravat, and parts of the hair, are severely abraded; the background is slightly abraded. There is a band of overpainted losses along the bottom edge, and more recent retouching along the contour on the right side of the sitter's face, in the bottom left corner, and above the "signature." The thick, natural resin varnish has discolored to a significant degree.