Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827)
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Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827)

Matthias and Thomas Bordley, Circa 1771

Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827)
Matthias and Thomas Bordley, Circa 1771
oil on canvas
50 x 40 ½ in.
The artist’s studio, until 1775
Elizabeth Bordley Gibson (1777-1863), Baltimore, sister of the subjects
Elizabeth Bordley Belt McGrath (1842-1926), great niece
Lady Frances Hadfield (née Frances Belt Wickersham) (1862-1950), London, niece
Sims McGrath, Tenants Harbor, Maine, to 1988, second cousin
Margaret (Peggy) Rockefeller (1915-1996), October 1990, sister
F.S. McGrath, “A Letter to Eileen,” Maryland Historical Magazine, vol. XXIV, December 1929, p. 299.
F.S. McGrath, Pillars of Maryland, Richmond, VA, 1950, p. 393.
C.C. Sellers, Portraits and Miniatures by Charles Willson Peale, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, n.s., vol. XLII, pt. 1, Philadelphia, 1952, no. 68, repr. P. 277.
L.B. Miller, ed., The Selected Papers of Charles Willson Peale and His Family, New Haven, CT, 1983, vol. I, p. 104-105, 153.
A. Ribeiro, The Dress at Masquerades in England, 1730 to 1790, and Its Relation to Fancy Dress in Portraiture, New York and London, 1984, p. 215, repr. P. 231 (misidentified as by R. Livesay).
L.B. Miller and D.C. Ward, eds., New Perspectives on Charles Willson Peale, Pittsburgh, PA, 1991, p. 53.
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Lot Essay

In 1771, Charles Willson Peale painted this double portrait of Matthias and Thomas Bordley. The painting was commissioned by the boys’ father John Beale Bordley, who was Peale’s good friend and patron. Although the boys appear youthful and healthy, the painting is a posthumous homage to Thomas, Bordley’s eldest son. Thomas died from consumption in 1771 at the age of sixteen while studying at Eton College. From the inclusion of St. Paul’s Cathedral in the background to the stone carving of Minerva in the foreground, the composition is rife with subtle references to Thomas’ religious and academic prowess. In addition to showing his technical mastery of English portraiture, the painting exhibits Peale’s emotional sensitivity as a friend. Both Bordley and his wife Sarah would later have their portraits done by Peale. The painting of Matthias and Thomas descended in the Bordley family to Peggy Rockefeller who was a descendent of the sitters’ sister Elizabeth Bordley Gibson.

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