This pair of portraits is a fully developed and well rendered example of the placidly realistic portraits of self-taught New Jersey artist Micah Williams (1782-1837). Born in Essex County, Williams worked primarily and prolifically in Middlesex and Monmouth Counties, New Jersey. A successful artist-for-hire, he is credited with over one hundred pastel and oil portraits of local residents, most executed between 1818 and 1830 in New Jersey before he relocated to New York City between 1830 and 1832 (Lee Kogan, American Anthem: Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum (New York, 2001), p. 310).
In these portraits, Williams depicts Abraham Staats (1743-1821) and his wife, Margaret (née Dubois, 1749-1822) At the time of his marriage in 1770, Staats was employed as a surveyor, mathematician and tax collector for the British monarchy. These close ties to the Crown made Abraham Staats an unlikely patriot; however he was an active participant in the strengthening of the Revolutionary forces in New Jersey during the Second Middlebrook Encampment in the spring of 1779. The Staats family home and surrounding property served as headquarters, barracks and training ground for the Inspector General of the Continental Army, Baron Frederick William von Steuben, and approximately ten thousand patriot troops, the bulk of George Washington's forces at that time. Abraham Staats and his wife remained in their residence throughout the Army's occupation, providing immediate support to the war effort. In May 1779, General von Steuben conducted a ceremonial review of the troops for General Washington in the Staats' family orchard; there were eight regiments with sixteen guns present. The camp closed shortly thereafter on June 3, 1779 when Washington led his newly minted army to Highlands, New York, to obstruct the progress of British forces on the Hudson River.
After the Revolution, Abraham Staats remained a tax collector in Somerset County. The scales accompanying the present lot were used by the sitter during his tenure, which ended in 1820, a year before his death.