Portraits of Jean Terford David and Mary Sicard David

Portraits of Jean Terford David and Mary Sicard David


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Thomas Sully

(American, 1783-1872)

Oil on canvas

Framed: 122 x 103 x 10 cm (48 1/16 x 40 9/16 x 3 15/16 in.); Unframed: 89.5 x 70.5 cm (35 1/4 x 27 3/4 in.); Part 2: 121.9 x 103.5 x 15.3 cm (48 x 40 3/4 x 6 in.); Part 3: 89.5 x 69.8 cm (35 1/4 x 27 1/2 in.)

Gift of the John Huntington Art and Polytechnic Trust 1916.1979


According to his own inventory, the astonishingly productive Sully painted more than 2,600 works during his career. Most of these paintings were commissioned portraits, including this one of John Terford David, who had just recently married. French-born David was an American officer who served as a paymaster during the War of 1812. His rank is indicated by the fringed epaulet on his left shoulder and the lack of one on his right. In composing the portrait, Sully ingeniously positioned David's body on an angle to emphasize the single epaulet and downplay the uniform's lack of symmetry.

Leaving England for America at the age of nine but returning in his mid-twenties to study with Benjamin West, Sully finally settled in Philadelphia in 1810. There he became the city's leading painter, known for dashing brushwork and elegant figures. Lieutenant Jean Terford David (1792–1838) commissioned these portraits of himself and his wife Mary Sicard David (1792–1864) soon after his appointment as regimental paymaster in the US Army. Sully created visual drama by portraying David from below against a cloud-filled sky. Mrs. David, however, is seen from straight on and presents a sweet and benign figure. The frame is original.

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