Mrs. West with Raphael West, oil on canvas, 30 x 25in. (circular), collection of the Marquess of Lothian
Mrs. West with Raphael West, oil on canvas, 26 x 26in. (circular), Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut, Paul Mellon Collection (replica of the above)
Mrs. West with Raphael West, oil on canvas, formerly in the collection of Empress Catherine II of Russia, now possibly identified as the work in the Cleveland Museum, Cleveland, Ohio
Mrs. West with Raphael West, oil on canvas, 36 x 36in. (circular), Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City, Utah
Benjamin West was a great admirer of the Renaissance painter Raphael, whose works he copied and whose name he gave to his first son, born in April 1766. West marked the occasion of the arrival of the young Raphael by painting him together with his mother Elizabeth Shewell West in a composition clearly inspired by Raphael's Rensaissance masterwork Madonna della Sedia in the Palazzo Pitti, Florence.
Mrs. Benjamin West and Her Son Raphael is one of five, and most likely the first, compositions of West's wife and son. All were painted in oval or circular format like the famous Raphael composition. The present example is particularly noteworthy, however, as it shows Raphael West as a small baby, at a younger age than he appears in the other related works, and as such this painting would have been the first of West's compositions in this manner. Mrs. Benjamin West and Her Son Raphael depicts the young Raphael as an animated, happy child, who looks outwards and waves at his father; in other versions of the composition he appears shyer and coyly hugs his mother.
In his important article about Mrs. Benjamin West and Her Son Raphael, R. Cohen writes, "This portrait, the first of the series is a valuable and rare discovery. Its subject matter is both biographically and historically of great interest. Painted by West as a young married man and recent father, it shows the painter's capacity for the most affecting tenderness. His American wife Elizabeth Shewell West (1741-1814), to whom he remained happily married for half a century, would have been about twenty seven years old at the time that he painted this portrait, and her husband's affection for her radiates from the image." (Apollo Magazine, p. 172)
In 1770 West exhibited Mother and Child at the Royal Academy, which Horace Walpole identified as a portrait of West's own wife and child in the marginal notes to his copy of the Academy catalogue of 1770. It is possible that Mrs. Benjamin West and Her Son Raphael was the example included in the Royal Academy exhibition. The painting most likely portrays young Raphael West in his first year, and is thus datable to the first half of 1767.