Portrait of Abigail Congdon Packard
Portrait of Abigail Congdon Packard, ca. 1794
Oil on canvas
88.9 x 73.7 cm (35 x 29 inches)
Gift of Elizabeth Packard White Salisbury, William Gerald White, and Charlotte Bowen White Spellman 1993.049
Although born in Massachusetts, James Earl developed his sophisticated portrait style during ten years of study in London. When he returned in 1794, he disembarked at Charleston, South Carolina, a prosperous city in which his skill was rewarded with commissions. He also painted several New Englanders during his short American career, including Captain and Mrs. Samuel Packard of Providence. Packard’s (ca. 1761-1820) success as a ship’s captain, merchant, and shipowner is indicated by the sailing vessel in his portrait’s background and the spyglass in his hand. He married Abigail Congdon (ca. 1761-1854), a descendant of one of Rhode Island’s earliest English settlers and the owner of considerable property in North Kingstown. Their wealth and refined taste is apparent in their stylish coiffures, in Packard’s embroidered silk waistcoat, and in the copious lace trim on his wife’s bonnet and dress.