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The Schuyler Limner

American, active c. 1717 - 1725

"Aetatis Suae" Limner

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The designation "Schuyler Limner" or "Schuyler Painter" can be applied to the anonymous maker, active circa 1717 to circa 1725, of some two dozen early eighteenth-century portraits of subjects from the Albany, New York, area. The name is derived from what appears to be the earliest and most ambitious effort by the artist, the full-length portrait of Colonel Pieter Schuyler (c. 1717), which hangs in the Albany City Hall.

Portraits by The Schuyler Limner are usually three-quarter length and distinguished by strong contrasts of light and dark. His paintings form an identifiable subgroup of a larger category that shares similarities of inscription, date, and figure placement, and are said to be painted in the Aetatis Suae manner. The Aetatis Suae Limner is so called because he frequently uses this Latin phrase to introduce inscriptions recording his subjects' ages. In 1980 Mary Black proposed an identification of this limner based on clearly documented portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Evert Wendell. She revealed them to be the work of Nehemiah Partridge, an artist of English ancestry, who was born in 1683 and died circa 1737. Partridge seems to have profited, in acquiring patronage, from strong connections between the important families of the Albany area and those of Boston. His Wendell portraits partake of many of the Aetatis Suae conventions.

The discrepancies between the Wendell portraits and other portraits of the Aetatis Suae / Schuyler Limner type cannot be explained within the context of an orderly progression of style. The Wendell portraits of 1718 are more accomplished than many others in the group dated 1720 or later. The varying appearance of these paintings may perhaps be explained by differences in their condition. Another possibility, proposed by Black, is that Partridge employed more than one method of painting, using a more economical technique "in less sophisticated towns or in other areas where he had already established his reputation by initial use of a more painstaking and elaborate technique."

The most probable explanation, however, for the obvious relationships among so many works with slight but telling differences, is that two or more closely related hands were at work. The variety of forms of the Aetatis Suae inscription found in this group supports this hypothesis. Black makes the quite reasonable assumption that a small area such as the Albany community in the eighteenth century could not readily support several portraitists. The visual evidence, however, suggests that the issue may be open to question. [This is an edited version of the artist's biography published in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]

Artist Bibliography

Flexner, James Thomas. American Painting: First Flowers of Our Wilderness. Boston, 1947: 76-84.
Wheeler, Robert G., ed. Hudson Valley Paintings 1700-1750. Albany, 1959: 13, 15, 22-27.
Black, Mary C. "Pieter Vanderlyn and Other Limners of the Upper Hudson." In American Painting to 1776: A Reappraisal. Edited by Ian M. G. Quimby. Charlottesville, Virginia, 1971: 222-234.
Black, Mary C. "Contributions Toward A History of Early Eighteenth-Century New York Portraiture: The Identification of the Aetatis Suae and Wendell Limners." The American Art Journal 12 (Autumn 1980): 4-31.
Rumford 1981, 198-199.
Black, Mary C. "Early Colonial Painting in New York Province." In Blackburn and Piwonka 1988, 236-237.
Chotner, Deborah, with contributions by Julie Aronson, Sarah D. Cash, and Laurie Weitzenkorn. American Naive Paintings. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1992: 334-335.

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