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Joshua Johnson (c.1763-after 1824)
Joshua Johnson (c.1763-after 1824)

Standing Child with Strawberries

Joshua Johnson (c.1763-after 1824)
Standing Child with Strawberries
oil on canvas mounted on board
27 x 22 in.
By descent to Susanna (Susan) Helen (Wilcox) Dietrich (1873-1962)
Current owner, great-grandson

Condition report

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Lot Essay

Like the works in the previous two lots, this portrait of a standing child well illustrates the talents of Joshua Johnson, who worked in late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century Baltimore and is hailed as America’s first professional African American artist. The child’s pose, with right arm half-raised and holding a strawberry while the left arm is poised downward above a container of strawberries, closely follows that seen in Johnson’s iconic work, the c.1805 portrait of Emma Van Name now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Carolyn J. Weekley, Stiles Tuttle Colwill et al., Joshua Johnson: Freeman and Early American Portrait Painter (Williamsburg, VA and Baltimore, 1987), pp. 127-129, cat. 32). The background of a flowering bush was favored by Johnson around the same time as it appears in a small group of portraits, two of which can be fairly precisely dated between 1803 and 1805 (see lot 1218, fig. 1). As young boys were clothed in dresses, the gender of the sitter in this portrait is unclear. While most of Johnson’s young male subjects are clothed in trousers, several with known sitters portray boys in dresses and in at least two instances, also wearing necklaces as seen in the portrait offered here (see Weekley and Stiles, op. cit., pp. 116, 123-124, 131-132, cats. 20, 28, 37). If the sitter of this portrait is a boy, it would support the likelihood that the sitters were members of the Wilcox family whose household included two boys and two girls in 1810. For more on the family history and the artist, see lot 1218.

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