Portrait of a Gentleman
Attributed to James Martin
English, active America, ca 1795-1820
Portrait of a Gentleman, ca. 1820
Pastel on paper
54.5 x 42.6 cm (21 7/16 x 16 3/4 inches)
Georgianna Sayles Aldrich Fund 2000.81
This rare portrait of a freeman was drawn at a time when 90 percent of African Americans were enslaved. African Americans were rarely depicted as individuals, yet the sitter’s features, including his furrowed brow and gentle expression, are sensitively delineated. The sitter’s fashionable dress suggests he was a prominent individual. It is the supposition of Betsy Braun Lane that this could portray John Jacob Peterson, a regimental soldier in the American Revolution who was honored with a farm in Crotonville, New York. The artist was possibly James Martin, an untrained portraitist known for his work in pastel in New York.