Family Record of Elias Morrell and Sarah Allen
Artist: W. L. Williams
Oil & Watercolor on Paper
11 3/4” x 15” Framed to 14 1/4” x 17 1/4”
This unsigned record dated 1824 is almost certainly by the hand of W. L. Williams whose signed birth record for Wm. P. Browning of Woodford Co. Ky. dated 1813 can be seen on display at The Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts (MESDA) confirming the artist’s identity. An image of that record is among the support photos to be viewed below. Another for view is an unsigned birth record by Williams attached to the underside of the domed lid on a paint decorated small box . Additionally a signed Marriage certificate dated 1831 recently emerged at a Rachael Davis auction on Dec. 4th 2021 from the estate of Ross Trump & Edson J. Brown which too is included among the support images. More in the tradition of illuminated drawings than Fraktur these documents are likely more derived from a British Isles sensibility than the continental. The meticulous execution to detail opposed generally to the somewhat looser images of the Germanic tradition being another separation from the trove. The liberal use of oil paint a departure though only seen on our example. The four documents mentioned are the total population which I have encountered within 40 years when the Browning birth record surfaced. This family record example came from the Peter Chillingworth collection at Scenery Hill, Pa. Peter purchased it nearby suggesting Pa. or Ohio possibly the site of origin. The signed marriage certificate dated 1831 sold by Rachael Davis came from a Cleveland, Ohio Collection. The Lydia Ann Rockhill birth certificate dated 1817 affixed to a box lid was found among the estate of a Cincinnati, Ohio antique dealer. Seems Williams likely crossed the Ohio River sometime after executing the Browning record in 1813. Eighteen years between these works and scarcity of examples might suggest this a sideline occupation or a presentation to friends.
Apparently in the original frame with damp stains, toning to the paper, a faint vertical fold line in the center, and paper chipping to the perimeter. Colors remain strong with the top two lines popping with the application of oil paint. Now with UV filtering glass, loose acid free backing, having clear separators between the glass and the work.
Waverly, Ohio in 1859
Artist: Richard H. Sheppard, (1819–1895)
Oil on canvas
32¾” x 45″ image size (37½” x 49½” frame)
Ref. No. 091112_002
Sheppard depicts James Emmitt (1807–1893) in heroic pose with cane raised to the stars as conqueror, accompanied by his wife Louisa, grandchildren, and perhaps a daughter-in-law. Emmitt commissioned the Baltimore, Maryland ornamental artist Richard H. Sheppard to paint his Waverly, Ohio, which the artist gratefully signed and dated R.H. Sheppard 1859 to viewers’ lower right. A year later Emmitt persuaded the Ohio legislature to move the county seat of Pike County from Piketon to Waverly. Emmitt gifted the land to the city that year for the courthouse and constructed the new building by 1862 at his own expense. The considerable cost of such an endeavor was enabled by his conglomeration of vertically integrated business ventures, many of which are depicted in this painting; the anchor enterprise being the distillery complex with tall brick smokestack in the forefront. The distillery was supplied with corn and grain by Emmitt’s vast agricultural acreage, transported by his shipping company in canal boats of his manufacture, built from plank from his forested holdings, which were cut at his sawmill. The grain would then be processed through his gristmill before being conveyed the short distance to the distillery in the adjoining building. The opening of the Ohio and Erie Canal in 1832 eventually led to these extensive holdings, which began simply as farming and transportation. Vision and unbridled ambition drove Emmitt into the husbandry of large herds of cattle, sheep, and goat. Naturally, he also operated a tannery not content to lose control of any key stage of the manufacturing or distribution chain. Cattle can be viewed in a field supplied with mash by-products, which were distributed by a long tipple descending from the distillery. Mules can be seen grazing below the subjects, an integral element in moving bulk short distances on land. Workers are loading large sandstone slabs unto one of the five canal boats, only two of which are of the same design indicating specialty functions for his many products destined to various markets. Undoubtedly the stone signifies a quarry among his holdings. The open suspension bridge crosses a waterway to Emmitt’s Hotel where the artist may have stayed and possibly this painting hung. That building survives today. A year after completion of this painting, Floyd R. Emmitt was listed as a 19-year old miller living in his father’s household on the Federal Census. His older brother Joseph was listed as a distiller indicating the personnel division was augmented by seeding that department. This incredible painting is a fortunate legacy from an early industrialist who arose mostly unchecked by pesky legislation during the era. We would encourage the viewer to click the cursor on the image so to expand and explore the minutia of detail and activity showcased in this work.
Richard H. Sheppard is listed as working in Baltimore, Maryland in the 1840s and 1850s as a miniature artist, ornamental, and sign painter. Professions, which were common in the day to have their artisans deliver their work unsigned. We are unaware of other signed works by Sheppard during his Ohio visit, although such an ambitious commission as the one shown here was seldom offered to any artist working at this time. Probably the more typical requests, which filled an ornamental artists working day would not be signed, so his other work in Ohio (which includes two other views of Lebanon, Ohio) have been attributed on the basis of this signed painting. The Maryland Historical Society does have examples of Sheppard’s ornamental work done for a local fire company.
The painting survives having a superb surface with vivid color and minute detail not unexpected from an artist who painted miniatures. Even a light haze of horizontal smoke clouds is depicted above the smoke trails ascending the two chimneys. Sheppard’s view of Waverly is probably an accurate representation of all structures existing there in 1859. There are scattered losses of paint mostly to viewers’ lower right where a buckling of the canvas has occurred. There are four stabilized punctures with no attempt to in-paint the losses. One may click the cursor on the image to expand and see detail of paint loss, which comprises less than one percent of the canvas in non-critical areas. The original silver leaf (gold appearance) frame is spotted but has never suffered an added finish. Overall the painting is well preserved having never experienced a harsh cleaning.
Portrait of the Thoroughbred Kentucky
Artist: Edward Troye, 1808-1874
Oil on canvas
31” x 38¾” image size (38” x 45¾” frame size)
Ref. No. 070320_002
This oil, on relined canvas, is in its original frame signed E. Troye to viewers lower left. Both frame and painting are in a remarkable state of preservation.
The thoroughbred Kentucky, born 1861, was sired by Lexington out of Magnolia. Magnolia a gift to Henry Clay, later owned by his son J. M. Clay who bred her to William Atkinson Alexander’s (Woodburn Farm) famed stallion Lexington.
J. M. Clay sold Kentucky to John Hunter in 1863 for $6,000 after winning a one-mile stakes race at Patterson, New Jersey. Kentucky goes on to win 21 of 22 starts in his career with a loss to his half-brother Norfolk at the Jersey Derby in Paterson on June 6th 1864 where he finished the mile heat in fourth place. Prior to the race, Kentucky’s preliminary workout was twice suspended indicating he may have been off that day. Sometime later, Hunter partnered ownership of Kentucky with William Travers and John Osgood. In 1866, after winning the Inaugural Stakes at Jerome Park in New York, this partnership sold Kentucky to Leonard Walter Jerome for $40,000.
Troye, en route to Jerome Park from Kentucky honoring a commission to paint the thoroughbred for each of the owners, learns upon arrival that they have sold the horse. This unsettling news was quickly remedied by the new owner, Jerome, who commissioned four portraits of the horse to be distributed among the previous owners and himself. Jerome’s Kentucky portrait was reproduced in 1867 as an aquatint by Goupil & Cie of Paris for M. Knoedler of New York. The original oil painting’s whereabouts (if it still exists) is unknown. A portrait of Kentucky in a stall is at the collection of the National Sporting Library in Virginia. The other portrait in the Paul Mellon Collection at Yale University is similar to the painting seen here but the horse facing opposite.
This portrait of Kentucky (the largest of the four) with the Passaic River in the background thought to have been presented to John Hunter was immediately placed on exhibition at Turf Field and Farm where Sanders Bruce (co-founder of the American Stud Book and editor of the weekly sporting newspaper Turf Field and Farm), proclaimed “The best, in our opinion, of the series of portraits of Kentucky by Troye, is now on exhibition in our offices.” He later states “Unquestionably it is the greatest work to ever come from the easel of Troye.” The verbose Bruce was no stranger to the equine world or Troye, later authoring the artist’s obituary in 1874 for his newspaper.*
Kentucky, a well-formed horse, was painted as a five year old—mature yet fit without signs of age. This aspect coupled with an unusually fine state of preservation for this artist, good size, a masterful execution by Troye, and importance of subject, converge to rank this painting among Troye’s best.
International Museum of the Horse, Kentucky Horse Park, Lexington, Kentucky, 1998 – 2006.
Edward Troye, Anne Wright Wilson Fine Arts Building, Georgetown College, Georgetown, Kentucky, July 13 – August 31, 2003. See catalog, p.19.
Kentucky Bloodlines: The Legacy of Henry Clay, Ashland, The Henry Clay Estate, Lexington, Kentucky, April 1 – October 30, 2005.See catalog, p. 47.
Master Works by Kentucky Painters: 1819-1935, The University of Kentucky Art Museum, September 14 – November 30, 2008.
“Tales From the Turf: The Kentucky Horse, 1825-1950”. Speed Art Museum, November 15, 2019 – March 1, 2020.
Mackay-Smith, Alexander, The Race Horses of America, 1832–1872: Portraits and Other Paintings by Edward Troye, Saratoga Springs: National Museum of Racing, 1981, pp. 290, 297-298.
Lacer, Genevieve Baird, Edward Troye: Painter of Thoroughbred Stories, Harmony House Publishers, Kentucky, 2007, p. 208.
Pennington, Estill Curtis, Kentucky: The Master Painters from the Frontier Era to the Great Depression, 2008, Cane Ridge Publishing House, p. 94, (erroneously titled Lexington).
*Note: Alexander Mackay-Smith’s The Race Horses of America, 1832-1872: Portraits and other Paintings by Edward Troye provided much of the information in this description of the painting and subject matter.