Among the liveliest paintings in the Bayou Bend Collection is this distinguished portrait of an 11-year-old boy from Boston. Samuel Pemberton belonged to a wealthy family that made its fortune in real estate and the merchant trade. He graduated from Harvard and explored the ministry before taking over his father's business. Later, he entered public life as a justice of the peace and became a prominent member of the political group the Sons of Liberty. Painted by the first major art celebrity in the American colonies, Scottish-born John Smibert, this portrait portrays its subject as a bewigged gentleman in a soft gray suit, proudly erect with an alert expression on his face, his large eyes enhanced by exquisitely rendered eyelashes. A great deal of attention and care has been lavished on painting the ruffle, the braid and buttons of the coat and vest, and the graceful swirls of the wig. Despite the formulaic composition, this portrait has considerable charm and verve, whereas Smibert's later portraits of Samuel's sisters Hannah (in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art) and Mary (in the Bayou Bend Collection) are less appealing. The three portraits likely hung as a unit, with Samuel at center.

Cataloguing data may change with further research.

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John Smibert, American, 1688–1751
Portrait of Samuel Pemberton
Oil on canvas
Canvas: 30 1/8 × 25 1/2 in. (76.5 × 64.8 cm)
Credit Line

The Bayou Bend Collection, museum purchase funded by Miss Ima Hogg

Current Location
The Audrey Jones Beck Building
Accession Number

Sitter's parents, James and Hannah Penhallow Pemberton until 1757, at which point sitter was bequeathed his portrait; to his nie ce, Mrs. Ephraim Ward (Mary Colman), to 1809; to her son, Benjamin Colman Ward; to his unmarried daughters, Ellen Maria Ward and Julia Elizabeth Ward, to c.1900; to their cousin, George H. Davenport, Boston, to 1932; to his daughter Mrs. William Truman Aldrich, to 1949; to George Aldrich; to Vose Galleries, Boston, in 1972; to Miss Ima Hogg May 24, 1972.