This elegant portrait is attributed to the Scottish painter Cosmo Alexander, who came to America in the mid-1760s seeking to expand his clientele and to capitalize on the lack of trained artists in this country. Alexander worked primarily in the Newport, Rhode Island, area, which was one of the wealthiest in the country in the 18th century due to its status as a busy port. This was one of the few places that could support a class of patrons who could afford the luxury of having their portrait painted.
This unidentified sitter appears to have been a woman of wealth and intelligence. Her wealth is suggested by the lavishness of the materials found in her attire—in particular its abundance of fine lacework. Her intelligence is communicated both by her engaging, straightforward gaze and by the opened letter that she holds between her slender fingers: a testament to her ability to read.
Place object was created: United States
oil paint, canvas
Measurements: height: 36 inches width: 31 inches smallest height: 29.875 inches smallest width: 24.875 inchesGift of Dr. and Mrs. Paul J. Payne. 1981.171
Currently on view at Mint Museum UPTOWN