Chester Harding’s 1849 “Portrait of a Lady,” oil on panel. New Englanders Harding and his younger brother, Horace, found some success in the portrait trade in early 19th century Kentucky, where they were influenced by Matthew Harris Jouett, the state’s great native portraitist.
The elder Harding is the model of the itinerant American artist, moving from place to place over and over again plying his trade. In 1849 he was in Washington, D.C., and, while working on a likeness of statesman Daniel Webster, visited with his friend Matthew Brady, the photographer.
“Portrait of a Lady” measures 32 by 22 inches (38 by 32 inches, framed) and bears a plaque with the title, the name of the artist and the artist’s dates. The painting is inscribed, verso, “Chester Harding 1849” and has a small torn stamp on the back bearing the name “General Chester Harding.” The general was the artist’s son and adjutant general of the Missouri State Militia during the Civil War.
The painting was conserved by the Cumberland Art Conservation Center in Nashville, Tennessee.