GILBERT STUART (1755–1828)
Portrait of Mrs. Barney (Ann Otis) Smith, about 1809–18
Oil on wood panel, 36 1/2 x 26 1/2 in.
RECORDED: George C. Mason, The Life and Works of Gilbert Stuart (New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1879; reprint ed., New York: Burt Franklin, 1972), p. 257 // Lawrence Park, Gilbert Stuart: An Illustrated Descriptive List of His Works, with an Account of His Life by John Hill Morgan and an Appreciation by Royal Cortissoz (New York: W. E. Rudge, 1926), vol. I, p. 695; vol IV, p. 472, no. 771 illus. // Charles Merrill Mount, Gilbert Stuart: A Biography (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1964), “The Works of Gilbert Stuart,” p. 375 // Carrie Rebora Barrett and Ellen G. Miles, Gilbert Stuart, exhib. cat. (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004), pp. 299–301 in discussion of portrait of her daughter, Lydia Smith
EXHIBITED: Copley Hall, Boston, March 11–31, 1895, Loan Collection of Portraits of Women // Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1916–24, on extended loan // Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, October 24–December 9, 1928, Gilbert Stuart Memorial Exhibition, no. 64 // Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, New York, November–December 1941, Milestones in American Art // New Britain Museum, Connecticut, 1942
EX COLL.: Mrs. Barney Smith until 1843; to her son, Henry Barney Smith (1789–1861); by bequest to his niece, Rosalie Genevieve Russell (1822–1897), Milton, Massachusetts; to her niece, Miss Mary Rivers (1840–1918), Milton, Massachusetts; to her nephew, Robert W. Rivers (1882–1945), Brookline, Massachusetts; to [Robert C. Vose Galleries, Boston, 1943–44]; to Roger Ernst (1881–1955, great-grandson of Lucinda Smith Otis, Brookline, Massachusetts, until 1955; to his widow; private collection, New York; to sale no. 6402, Christie’s New York May 29, 1987, no 9 illus. in color; to George C. Seybolt, Boston, until 1993; to his family, by descent, until 2019
From a surviving letter of Ann Otis Smith to her daughter, Lydia Smith Russell, we know that Stuart finished Mrs. Smith’s portrait in 1818, having begun it some ten years earlier (Barratt and Miles, p. 300; also excerpted in a typescript pasted to back of picture). The portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Smith reflect the conventions of their times. Husband and wife sit, facing each other, both set against red drapery, a reference to the grand-manner style of portraiture denoting wealth and position. Holding a letter in his right hand, with additional papers on the table next to him, Barney Smith is clearly a man of business. Ann Otis Smith is shown with no attributes. Her hands rest demurely on her lap. She is a maternal lady of middle age, elegantly dressed in white satin and lace. An extravagantly plumed white hat allows her reddish-brown curls to peak out and wreath the rounded contours of her face.