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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 6

This note contained in document ADMS-04-06-02-0072
29. Mather Brown, born in Boston in 1761, had come to London in 1781 to study painting with Benjamin West. Of the three Adams portraits that he executed in 1785, that of JA and AA are lost. On 2 Sept., AA2 recorded JA's reaction to a portrait done of him, presumably that by Brown, in her journal: “. . . we had some conversation upon the pictures below. Papa said they were spoiled; he was not at all content with his own, yet thought it the best that had ever been taken of him. No one had yet caught his character. The ruling principles in his moral character were candour, probity, and decision. I think he discovered more knowledge of himself than usually falls to the lot of man” (Jour, and Corr., 1:80). Brown painted JA again in 1788 for Thomas Jefferson, who owned this portrait until his death; it is now in the Boston Athenaeum. Brown's portrait of AA2 is at the Adams National Historic Site, Quincy, Mass. A “Portrait of a Lady,” in the N. Y. State Historical Association, previously identified as that of AA by Mather Brown, is no longer considered to be by Brown. The identity of the sitter, as well, is now questioned. The painting is signed by Ralph Earl but no evidence exists that he painted AA at this or any other time. The eyes of the “Lady” are blue; those of AA in her other likenesses are brown. These reasons are enough for the editors to doubt, until further supporting evidence is found, that the “Lady” is AA (Dorinda Evans, Mather Brown, Early American Artist in England, Middletown, Conn., 1982, p. 195). See the Abigail Adams 2D, July 1785, by Mather Brown 217Descriptive List of Illustrations in this volume.
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2018.