falsely inscribed, reverse of lining canvas: 50 / PORTRAIT OF MY FRIEND SMIBERT / DRAWN BY P. PELHAM. / JAHLEEL BRENTON / COPIED FROM THE ORIGINAL INSCRIPTION / ON THE BACK OF THIS PICTURE BY / J. OLIVER / LINER / NEW YORK
(Rose M. [Mrs. Augustus] de Forest, New York); sold 7 January 1922 to Thomas B. Clarke [1848-1931], New York, as a portrait of John Smibert by Peter Pelham; sold by Clarke's executors 1935 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.
- Exhibition of Portraits by Early American Artists, The Union League Club, New York, March 1922, no. 10, as John Smibert by Peter Pelham.
- 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 John Smibert by Peter Pelham.
- New England Painting, 1700-1775, Worcester Art Museum, 1943, no cat.
- Cuthbert, Lee. "The Thomas B. Clarke Collection of Early American Portraits." American Magazine of Art 19 (1928): 304, repro. 294.
- Sherman, Frederic Fairchild. Early American Painting. New York and London, 1932: 17.
- Foote, Henry Wilder. John Smibert. Cambridge, Mass., 1950: 235-237.
- American Paintings and Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1970: 160, repro., as Portrait of a Man by American (?).
- American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1980: 308, as Portrait of a Man by Unknown [Formerly Considered American].
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 412, repro., as Portrait of a Man by Unknown Nationality 18th Century.
- Hayes, John. British Paintings of the Sixteenth through Nineteenth Centuries. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1992: 311-312, repro. 311.
The medium-weight canvas is plain woven; it has been lined. The ground is light brown, thinly applied. The composition is oval in format; the area outside the broad band of paint defining the oval is painted in dark brown. The painting is executed thinly and fluidly. There is retouching along the circumference of the oval and minimally in the sitter's face and hair. The natural resin varnish has discolored yellow slightly.