I used the Hammond-Harwood House Facebook page to request ideas for blog posts. The suggestions all had to do with our collection of portraits, so this will be the first post in what will (hopefully) become a series about the paintings hanging in the House and the artists who painted them.
Today, we have Mrs. Middleton, possibly Rebecca Middleton. She was also previously identified as Ann Elizabeth Kemp Middleton and Elizabeth Gilbert Middleton. This portrait is on loan to us from a private owner, and there is still a bit of uncertainty about its subject. We have been told that she is one of the Middletons associated with Middleton’s Tavern here in Annapolis. She was painted by John Hesselius, the son of artist Gustavus Hesselius. John was born in Philadelphia but moved to Annapolis around 1761. He had been taught to paint by his father and in turn passed his knowledge on to Charles Willson Peale. The story is that Peale made Hesselius a saddle in exchange for painting lessons.
Mrs. Middleton was obviously not the most attractive woman, but she certainly wore her finest to sit for her portrait. Her coppery gown is obviously silk, and her kerchief and cap are fine muslin edged with lace. Obviously she was, or at least wanted to ensure that she was portrayed as, a well-off woman. Now if I could only figure out which woman she was!