"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Dolley Madison

This 1848 portrait of Dolley Madison by William S. Elwell hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.
"Dolley Madison served as White House hostess during the administrations of the widowed Thomas Jefferson and her own husband, James Madison. Her effervescence doubtless accounted, in part at least, for the popularity of Madison's presidency in its last several years. After the end of Madison's term in 1817, Dolley helped her husband put his papers in order, selling a portion of them to Congress after his death.

William Elwell painted Dolley Madison's portrait in February 1848 and later sold it to her longtime friend William Winston Seaton, editor and co-owner of the Washington, D.C., newspaper The National Intelligencer. The portrait offers a glimpse of the aging Mrs. Madison, described by the artist in his diary as 'a very Estimable lady' kind & obliging - one of the Old School.'" - National Portrait Gallery
Here's a life-mask sculpture of Dolley taken in 1825 by John Henri Isaac Browere.

Art critic Charles Henry Hart remarked of Dolley Madison that:
Her great beauty has been heralded by more than one voice and one pen, but not one of the many portraits that we have of her, from that painted by Gilbert Stuart, aged about thirty, to the one drawn by Mr. Eastman Johnson, shortly before her death, sustains the verbal verdict of her admirers; and now the life mask by Browere would seem to settle the question of her beauty in the negative. 
This c. 1846 daguerreotype of Dolley, by John Plumbe Jr. was purchased by the National Portrait Gallery on June 28, 2024 from Sotheby's for $456,000.  See NPRCNN or the Smithsonian News Release.

The engraving below, after A. Chapell from Duyckinck 1873, shows a more youthful Dorothy Payne Madison.

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