Eye Candy For Today: Gilbert Stuart portraits

Portraits of Matilda Stoughton de Jaudenes, and Josef de Jaudenes y Nebot, by Gilbert Stuart
Portraits of Matilda Stoughton de Jaudenes, and Josef de Jaudenes y Nebot, by Gilbert Stuart

Both paintings are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Use the download or zoom icons under the images on the museum’s pages.

18th century painter Gilbert Stuart is an artist whose historical stature suffers from “greatest hits” syndrome. His portraits of early U.S. presidents, most famously his iconic portrayals of George Washington, overshadow his accomplishments as a painter and portraitist.

In this double portrait, Stuart pulls out the stops to portray a Spanish diplomat and his sixteen-year-old American bride at the time of their wedding, decked out in the elaborate finery customary in Spain at the time.

Stuart brought a European sensibility to his work — learned during his time in England as a student of Benjamin West — and was the most highly regarded portrait painter in America.

His command of the brush is evident in his confident handling of fabric and the decorative elements of clothing; the economical notation of hair, lace and brocade; and the lively, glowing visages of his young subjects.

5 Replies to “Eye Candy For Today: Gilbert Stuart portraits”

  1. Hello Charley, Again and again your energy & intelligence make Lines and Colors one of the most delightful blogs for visual artists and the interested lait. Eye Candy, indeed! The above two examples are splendid. For your readers in the Philadelphia region, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts has a superb collection of Stuarts of which any 4-6 are displayed in the Academy’s exhibition galleries. For those readers interested in Stuart’s portraiture, there are some contemporaneous accounts of his approach. Most notably the record of Stuart’s methods were made by another fine portraitist and arguably one of Stuart’s best students Thomas Sully. [Sully studied under Stuart for about a month]. Here is a webpage address which features Sully’s record of Stuart’s portrait palette along with Sully’s own: https://www.pafa.org/collection/replica-gilbert-stuarts-palette-palette

    1. Thanks, Patrick. Your comments are always a welcome addition, as is your link to the PAFA resource.

      Stuart’s portraits in the Academy’s collection are where I came to admire his work, and his portrait of Mrs. Samuel Gatliff and Daughter Elizabeth is what struck me with Stuart’s skills as a painter of portraits, not just presidents. (Granted, the baby is just a bit weird, but the mother is a beautiful portrait.)

      For the benefit of other readers, here is my post on Thomas Sully.

  2. The sixteen-year-old bride of Josef de Jaúdenes y Nebot, Matilda Stoughton de Jaudenes y Nebot was born in New York.
    Josef was a minor Spanish official, described by scholars as a “dandy and spendthrift”; “a swarthy Spanish provocateur,” “arrogant”, “slippery”, “shifty and even cruel”.
    Source: Catalogue Gilbert Stuart by Carrie Rebora Barratt and Ellen G. Miles

  3. There’s more.
    At a dinner given by President and Mrs Washington (!) on April 2, 1795, one of the guests remarked that she (Louisa Carolina Matilda S de J y N) and the Portuguese minister’s wife were “brilliant with diamonds”.

    Don Josef’s coat of arms at the upper right, the inscription and date are not by Stuart, but added later in Spain.

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