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Arts of North America

Art created in North America includes objects made by native cultures of the present-day United States and Canada; paintings and decorative arts produced during colonial times; 18th- and 19th-century masterpieces; and the work of contemporary artists and photographers.

 
 
 
ROBERT FEKE
American, c. 1707 - 1751
Portrait of Mrs. Samuel McCall, Sr.
1746
Oil on canvas

49 7/8 x 39 7/8 inches

 
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Bayou Bend Collection
Gift of Miss Ima Hogg

Arts of North America
 
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One of several portraits of Philadelphia's McCall family, this painting features a young woman standing erect in front of an Ionic column and beside a swath of crimson drapery and a Rococo marble-topped table on which she rests her hand. Imposing, elegant, and spare, it shows how Robert Feke provided dignified portraits for his clientele, whether in Philadelphia, Boston, Virginia, or Barbados.

The first major native-born artist of the British North American colonies, Feke is known for his relatively large, impressive portraits. He borrowed from the tradition of Baroque portraiture, including swags of brightly colored drapery, columns, elegant dresses, and props. His grand portraits of colonists dressed and posed in the guise of English nobility evoke a quality of dignity and grace, and as exemplified in this excellent example, showcase a combination of grandeur and simplicity.

At the time Feke painted Anne McCall, she had been married for nine years to her cousin, Samuel, a prominent Philadelphia merchant. Here, she is dressed in a radiant, crystal-buttoned, blue silk dress, with a salmon pink underskirt, accentuated at the narrow waist by a tassel belt. She gracefully holds a peony in her long, tapering fingers.