Pair of Fine Mid-19th Century Virginia Portraits by Virginia Artist
Caryswood in Buckingham County, Virginia – Built in 1853
Pair of Fine Mid-19th Century Virginia Portraits by Virginia Artist – These two portraits, one of John Cary Page, the second of his wife, Mary Anna Trent Page, were obtained by Perry Adams Antiques, directly from the Page descendants. The two portraits have been hanging in the family home, Caryswood, in Buckingham County, Virginia, since 1852. Caryswood, built in 1853, by John Cary Page, is now designated as a National Historic Landmark. The Page family’s long and distinguished lineage includes a direct descent from Pocohontas, famed Native American, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Nelson (Signer of the Declaration of Independence), Thomas Mann Randolph of Tuckahoe, as well as numerous other important Virginia and U.S. history luminaries.
Both portraits appear to have been the work of the Virginia portrait artist, Henry J. Brown, originally from Lynchburg, Virginia and a student of George Caleb Bingham and Thomas Sully. Both portraits remain in their original, period frames and attached to their original period stretchers. Labels affixed to the back of both paintings indicate that they underwent some conservation in 1937; during that process, it appears that the portrait of John Cary Page was re-lined and cleaned. The portrait of his wife appears to have only been cleaned. Both canvases, although dark, and now in need of cleaning again, remain strong, with no holes or tears.
The artist who painted these striking portraits was Henry James Brown. Brown was born 12 October 1811. As mentioned, Brown studied with George Caleb Bingham and Thomas Sully. He was principally a portrait painter, as well as a farmer. He married Susan Ann Hobson and died 9 April 1855. His daughter was Salina Brown who married J. S. Worsham. The portrait of Mrs. Page, is inscribed on the back of the canvas, denoting the sitter, the date the portrait was completed and is signed and dated by the artist. The denotation of the sitter and date of the portrait is signed by T.L. Hobson, Brown’s father-in-law.
The portrait of Mrs. Page was completed just three years prior to the death of the artist. Mrs. Page is in her early 60s, as indicated by the inscription on the back of the canvas. The portrait of Mr. Page seemingly depicts him at a much younger age than his wife, perhaps completed when he was in his early or mid-forties. Indeed, the frame surrounding this portrait also appears to be from an earlier era, as it is of a mortise and tenon construction mode.
These portraits are rare examples of a prominent, but lesser known 19th century Virginia portrait painter; several of his portraits are in private collections, as well as in the Virginia Historical Society; his work and career were featured in Vol. C, No. 4 edition of “The Magazine Antiques” published in October, 1971. These portraits never left Caryswood until Perry Adams Antiques obtained them from the Page descendants who had decided to sell their ancestral home. The portraits are the work of highly skilled, albeit lesser known, Virginia artist, depicting members of a very prominent Virginia family. Additional research will accompany these portraits, as will a book delineating the Page family history and a copy of “The Magazine Antiques” that discusses the work of Henry J. Brown.
Measurements: Portrait of John Cary Page – Frame: 43.5” x 35”; Sight Size: 34” x 25.75
Portrait of Mary Anna Trent Page – Frame: 36.5” x 31.5”; Sight Size: 29.5” x24.5”