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Maker(s):Earl, Ralph
Culture:American (1751-1801)
Title:Dr. Joseph Trumbull
Date Made:1784
Materials:oil, canvas, wood, gilding
Place Made:United Kingdom; England; London
Measurements:overall: 30 x 25 in.; 76.2 x 63.5 cm; framed: 35 x 30 in.
Accession Number:  HD 56.195.1
Museum Collection:  Historic Deerfield

Framed oil portrait of a three-quarter profile and waist-length of Dr. Joseph Turnbull (1756-1824), an apothecary-doctor from Worcester, Massachusetts, who was a friend of the artist, Ralph Earl (1751-1801). Although unsigned and undated, this portrait was done in London, 1784, when both men were living in England, where Trumbull often travelled to buy drugs and other medical supplies for his apothecary shop in Worcester and later Petersham, Mass. Born in Massachusetts, Ralph Earl was an itinerant artist who painted at least 183 portraits and 6 landscapes, including a panorama of Niagara Falls. Earl initially worked in Connecticut, but his loyalist sympathies necessitated his moving to London in 1778 where he studied with Benjamin West (1738-1820). In 1785, Ralph returned to America, first to Boston and then NYC where he set up a studio. However, after a series of lawsuits, he was incarcerated in debtors’ prison from September 1786 to January 1788 where he continued to paint portraits. Upon release, Earl returned to Connecticut where he made a career as an itinerant artist painting the likenesses of New England’s rural elite over the next 10 years. This portrait descended in the Trumball family until 1955, when it was bought by the Vose Galleries in Boston along with the accompanying letter (HD 56.195.2) of September 23, 1784 from Earl to Trumbull, from the estate of Mary Louisa Trumbull Cogswell Roberts; HD bought both in 1956 (letter in library). In the letter, Earl wrote Trumbull to set up a date for a first portrait sitting, instructing him to "appear with me earley in the morning to proceed to business and to dine with me if you posebly can." There are two handwritten labels and one piece of paper which were on the back of the frame (now in data file): One label has, "This portrait of / Dr. Joseph Trumbull / is now the property of his great-granddaughter / Louisa Trumbull Roberts / (Mrs. Edwin Melville Roberts) / The Trumbull Mansion / 6 Massachusetts Avenue / Worcester, Mass." and the other, "Property of / Mrs. Percy Stuart Morouey / 65 Avenue du Masuil / La Vaneuse / ? / France." The piece of paper has: "Dr. Joseph Trumbull / Born in Suffield, Connecticut, October 12, 1756. Died in Worcester, Massachusetts, March 2, 1824 / This portrait, painted in London by Earle, has belonged successively to / Dr. Joseph Trumbull / George Augustus Trumbull / Charles Perkins Trumbull / Elizabeth (Trumbull ) Lincoln / Susan (Trumbull) Price / Isabella Frish (Trumbull) Hartshorne." Trumbull is shown reclining in a chair and looking directly at the viewer; his own hair brushed into a curl at each side and lightly powdered; wearing a white stock with bow in front, billowing shirt ruffles and ruffles at the right wrist, tan wool English frock coat with pewter buttons, and satin vest with gold braid and wide, pointed lapels; and a distant landscape on his left.


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