Apparently John, 6th Baron Massy [1835-1915], Fetard, County Tipperary [Ireland]. (B.F. Stevens & Brown), London, 1917. (Tooth Brothers, London); from whom it was purchased 15 May 1919 through (G.S. Sedgwick) as by Gilbert Stuart, for Thomas B. Clarke [1848-1931], New York; 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, 1954.
- Portraits Painted In Europe by Early American Artists, The Union League Club, New York, January 1922, no. 14, as James Massy Dawson by Gilbert Stuart.
- 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 James Massy Dawson by Gilbert Stuart.
- Park, Lawrence. Gilbert Stuart. 4 vols. New York, 1926: 1: no. 223; 3:repro. 136.
- American Paintings and Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1970: 166, repro., as by Unknown British.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Summary Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1975: 48, repro., as British School.
- American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1980: 309, as by British School.
- European Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1985: 21, repro.
- Hayes, John. British Paintings of the Sixteenth through Nineteenth Centuries. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1992: 251-253, repro. 253.
The wood panel is constructed of three vertical members; it has been thinned and marouflaged to a thick wooden support cradled on the reverse. The ground is white gesso, thinly applied. There is a warm imprimatura. The painting is generally broadly executed with a palette of earth tones; the face and hair are more delicately modeled; the application varies from dense, opaque layers to transparent glazes. There is little damage to the central section of the painting, but there is a considerable amount of discolored overpaint concealing the two vertical seams on either side of the actual portrait; there is a thin band of overpaint around the entire edge of the painting to compensate for the slightly larger size of the auxiliary wooden support. The thick natural resin varnish has discolored yellow moderately.