Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Richard Vaughan 1761

Robert Edge Pine 

Portrait of Richard Vaughan, Robert Edge Pine
Oil on canvas
18th Century
29 1/2 x 24 inches 75.9 X 61 cm
By descent in the Vaughan family to Miss Vaughan, later Mrs Dove; Sotheby's, 4 December 1957, Lot. 145
Robert G.Stewart, Robert Edge Pine: A British Portrait Painter in America 1784-1788, Washington 1980, p. 19.
The sitter was one of the eleven children of Samuel Vaughan (1720-1802), a wealthy merchant and an important patron of Pine. Samuel had interests in colonial trade, owning a plantation in Jamaica and had dealings with Boston where he met his wife, Sarah Hallowell. He played a decisive role in bringing Pine to America and by supplying a number of influential introductions.
Vaughan commissioned portraits of himself and his family from Pine over a period of some fifteen years, beginning in 1760 and thus becoming the artist's leading patron. Pine is known to have painted at least ten of Vaughan's eleven children.

Four of these portraits by Pine, together with a portrait Alderman Richard Oliver (1735-84) descended through the Vaughan family, and into the Dove family by marriage. These pictures were dispersed in 1957 and comprised including our picture: a group portrait of the Vaughan children: Sarah, Samuel, Barbara, Rebecca and Hannah (50 x 40 in., dated August 1773); a double portrait of Anne and William Vaughan (49 x 39 in.); and a double portrait of Charles and John Vaughan (49 x 39 in.) is dated to c. 1773 and is now belongs to the Westmoreland County Museum of Art, Greensburg, Pennsylvannia.

Further portraits of the family by Pine include one of Samuel Vaughan (49 1/2 x 39 1/2 in., dated 1760); and a portrait of Mrs Samuel Vaughan and her son, Richard (49 x39in., dated 1760). Our portrait of Richard Vaughan, being dated 1761, belongs to Pine''s first group of pictures. Stewart in the catalogue of the Pine exhibition at the Smithsonian Institute mentions that, Pine also made a portrait of Richard Vaughan, and a conversation piece ... Both pictures are unlocated. The re-discovery of this charming portrait of Richard Vaughan adds significantly to our knowledge of Pine's oeuvre.

The portrayal has a quality of reflective intimacy, with the sitter depicted absorbed in thought, holding an open book. In the double portrait of Mrs Vaughan and Richard painted the previous year, the boy also holds an open book. Its inclusion may well have been intended therefore to allude to early academic promise. The portrait is in many ways reminiscent of the work of Chardin, particularly in its presentation of a serene image of childhood - the main difference being that Pine fuses portrait and genre within an non-French tradition.

The sitter's father, Samuel Vaughan, moved to Philadelphia in 1783, where he joined his son John who was running the Philadelphia branch of the London family firm, and he remained until 1790. During that period he revitalized the American Philosophical Society and was its president from 1785 to 1787, and rebuilt several of the city''s civic buildings. Pine painted a portrait of Vaughan when both sitter and artist were in America that depicts his patron reading the Constitution of the United States and with books labelled Locke, Price, English Politics and American Phil. Trans. Behind the sitter is a sculpted profile of his friend Benjamin Franklin. When Pine settled in Philadephia in 1784, Vaughan procured for him the use of an apartment in the State House, rent-free, where on 27 October he opened a gallery for visitors. After Pine's death John Vaughan acted as one the artist's executors.

Vaughan also patronised native American artists and perhaps most famously bought from Gilbert Stuart his first portrait of George Washington, which became known subsequently as the Vaughan type. This bust-length image painted in 1795 caused a sensation when it was exhibited at the City Hall in Philadelphia, resulting in a demand for replicas. It gained even wider publicty when it was engraved. The following year Stuart obtained further sittings from Washington which resulted in the Athenaeum portrait.

Two members of the Vaughan family, Benjamin (1751-1835) and Charles (1759-1839) became prominent figures in America. Benjamin was a diplomat and political economist who was involved in the Anglo-American peace negotiations of 1782. He was also a close friend of Franklin, Shelburne and corresponded with the first six Presidents of the United States. Charles was a promoter of attempts to develop the Kennebec Valley in Maine. At Hallowell he built houses, stores and the largest malt liquor brewery in New England. A similar project was established at Jones Eddy, which turned out to be a complete failure.
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