Sale 11AM02 | Lot 8

William Matthew Prior

Catalogue: American Furniture & Decorative Arts
William Matthew Prior

Lot Details

Lot 8
William Matthew Prior
American, 1806-1873
Portraits of Mr. Greeley, Explorer and Mrs. Greeley: Two
Oil on board
20 3/4 x 16 3/4 inches and 20 7/8 x 17 7/8 inches

Thought to have descended in the family of the sitters, Newburyport, Massachusetts
Wayne Pratt, Woodbury, Connecticut
Private Collection, New York (2000)

These charming portraits are believed to represent Mr. and Mrs. Greeley, possibly of Newburyport, Massachusetts. A handwritten label on the back of one painting dates them to 1846, and refers to one of the subjects as a Mr. Greeley, who lived at the intersection of Fruit and High Streets, possibly placing them in Newburyport, Massachusetts, although the Greeleys may have traveled to Boston to have their portraits painted.

Art historian Jacquelyn Oaks writes that these paintings "are easily attributable to Prior and are done in his 'flatter' style, but with contour in the facial areas and roundness in the figures. The detail in the background of drapery and cording in the woman's portrait suggests that the Greeleys paid a premium for these paintings. During the 1840s, Prior advertised 'flat' likenesses for as little as $2.92, but these were clearly beyond that price. In 1846, the year in which these works may have been painted, Prior had just opened his studio which he called 'the Painting Garret' in East Boston; he did many portraits that are documented to that year. The size is typical of his work on board at the time. Mrs. Greeley is a lady 'of some years' and the cap is of a style worn by older women. I would date these somewhere in the late-1840s but, the costumes depicted could be somewhat later so the 1850s would not be out of the question.

The craquelure apparent on the gentleman's portrait indicates that the underground of paint was still wet when the artist applied subsequent layers, suggesting that he must have worked quickly. The size of the supports, the placement of the figures on the background, the quick brush strokes with which the forms are realized, and even the highlights in the eyes, are consistent with Prior's work."

Jacquelyn Oaks is guest curator of Artist, Businessman, and Visionary: William Matthew Prior Revealed, opening in May 2012 at Fenimore Art Museum of the New York State Historical Association at Cooperstown. We are grateful for her kind assistance in authenticating these portraits.

Estimate: $2,000 - $4,000
Sold for $2,000 (includes buyer's premium)

Additional Notes & Condition Report

Mr. Greeley-One inch vertical band of inpaint on the left edge. Fine craquelure in the face. Vertical scratch on the left cheek 1 1/2 inch in length. More pronounced craquelure in the dark passages. This is possibly resulting from insufficient drying time in the application of the paint. Small scattered losses on the right edge. Touches of inpaint in the background 1/4 inch across.

Mrs. Greeley-Dense varnish layer. Very little craquelure. A few small scattered areas of inpaint in the background and along the edge. Two touches of inpaint to the face.

Both were not examined out of the frame.

Any condition statement is given as a courtesy to a client, is only an opinion and should not be treated as a statement of fact. Doyle New York shall have no responsibility for any error or omission. The absence of a condition statement does not imply that the lot is in perfect condition or completely free from wear and tear, imperfections or the effects of aging.

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Estimate: $2,000 - $4,000
Sold for $2,000 (includes buyer's premium)

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Catalogue Info

American Furniture & Decorative Arts

Thu, Nov 17, 2011 at 10am EST
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