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 in-dividuals, 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.