Category Archives: Portraiture

Friday Photo: Historical Serendipity

Susan Amelia Yorke Hambro in 1860

History works in mysterious and wonderful ways. The Hammond-Harwood House has a portrait of Philip Yorke, the 1st Earl of Hardwicke, that descended in his family to Susan Amelia Yorke Hambro (pictured above) and was eventually sold at auction. Mrs. Clifford Hendrix, a former director of the Hammond-Harwood House, purchased it at the sale and later generously donated it to us, so the Earl now hangs proudly in our large parlor. Imagine my surprise when the blog of the British National Trust features a post on their portrait of the same man! I immediately commented on it, and received an e-mail from Emile de Bruijn, a Registrar for the Trust and the blog’s author. We traded information on our Yorke portraits and he has written an excellent summary of their histories. Please go read all about our portrait of the Earl and his English twin!

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Friday Photo Update!

Remember Mrs. Middleton from last week? In case you don’t, here she is again:

Mrs. Middleton, painted by John Hesselius, ca. 1765

Thanks to the miracle that is the Internet, I may (fingers crossed) have a better idea who she is. In the file I have on her portrait there was a terrible photocopy of an article from the November 1904 issue of Broadway magazine about the Middleton family, George Washington, and portraits. Images of a number of Middleton family portraits were included in the article, but they were too blurry to make out any details in my copy. It took intrepid intern Tara less than five minutes to find the article on Google books, so here it is.  And if you scroll down to page 26, there’s Mrs. Middleton! She is identified as Elizabeth Gilbert Middleton, and page 22 of the article says that she used her will to dispose “of innumerable taffeta petticoats, silk nightrobes and mob caps.” I don’t particularly enjoy wearing mobcaps, but I wouldn’t have minded inheriting a taffeta petticoat or two.

When I find free time, or intern Tara does, we need to do some genealogical research on the Middleton family to determine if the identification of Elizabeth Gilbert Middleton seems correct. But it was so satisfying to find something that might be pointing us in the right direction!

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Friday Photo: Good Day Mrs. Middleton

Mrs. Middleton, painted by John Hesselius, ca. 1765

I used the Hammond-Harwood House Facebook page to request ideas for blog posts. The suggestions all had to do with our collection of portraits, so this will be the first post in what will (hopefully) become a series  about the paintings hanging in the House and the artists who painted them.

Today, we have Mrs. Middleton, possibly  Rebecca Middleton. She was also previously identified as Ann Elizabeth Kemp Middleton and Elizabeth Gilbert Middleton. This portrait is on loan to us from a private owner, and there is still a bit of uncertainty about its subject. We have been told that she is one of the Middletons associated with Middleton’s Tavern here in Annapolis. She was painted by John Hesselius, the son of artist Gustavus Hesselius. John was born in Philadelphia but moved to Annapolis around 1761. He had been taught to paint by his father and in turn passed his knowledge on to Charles Willson Peale. The story is that Peale made Hesselius a saddle in exchange for painting lessons.

Mrs. Middleton was obviously not the most attractive woman, but she certainly wore her finest to sit for her portrait. Her coppery gown is obviously silk, and her kerchief and cap are fine muslin edged with lace. Obviously she was, or at least wanted to ensure that she was portrayed as, a well-off woman. Now if I could only figure out which woman she was!

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