The painting offered here is one of nine portraits of the distinguished men of Rhode Island presented to Brown University on August 21, 1857. The collection was assembled by a group of benefactors including John Carter Brown, Moses B. Ives, Robert H. Ives, Amos D. Smith, James Y. Smith, Phillip Allen & Son, Elisha Dyer, Benjamin Hopper, Horatio N. Slater, Charles B. King and Charlotte Goddard. A copy of a letter detailing this gift reproduced by the Shepard Gallery, Newport, Rhode Island, accompanies this lot.
Born in Rhode Island in 1785, Oliver Hazard Perry was a midshipman by age fourteen, and was commissioned a lieutenant during the war against Tripoli and the infamous Barbary pirates. During the War of 1812 at the Battle of Lake Erie, Perry defeated the British fleet, forcing the surrender of an English naval squadron for the first time in history. Subsequently, he achieved the highest possible rank of "National Hero." Perry died in 1819 and is buried in Newport.
Jane Stuart (1812-1888) was the youngest daughter of Gilbert Stuart, the famous portraitist of George Washington. She spent her childhood eagerly watching her father who refused to give her any formal training as it was his opinion that true artistic talent cannot be taught. He died when she was sixteen leaving her family penniless. In desperation to support her family, Jane set up a studio in Boston painting miniatures and oil portraits and making endless copies of her father's paintings of George Washington. Her rudimentary training and necessity made her an instant professional. Unfortunately, in the 1850s, her studio, the majority of her work and the mementos of her father's life were destroyed in a fire. A spirited woman who never married, Jane spent her later years in Newport where she was a favorite among the social elite. Her home became a gathering place and a center for the intellectual exchange of many Newport artists at the time.