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Anne Pollard at one hundred years of age

Anne Pollard at one hundred years of age Portrait, oil on canvas
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[ This description is from the project: Witness to America's Past ]

This portrait of Anne Pollard is a significant historical document and a prime example of colonial painting before John Smibert's arrival in Boston in 1729 brought an academically-trained portrait painter to the province.1 According to the inscription below Pollard's right arm, the portrait was executed when she was 100 years old. Her origins are obscure and not even her maiden name is known, although according to her obituary, she was born at Saffron Walden in Essex, England.2 She claimed to have arrived with the Winthrop Fleet of 1630 and to have been the first to jump ashore at Boston, but no contemporary substantiation of that story has been found.3 About 1643, she married innkeeper William Pollard (d. ca. 1679), and they had thirteen children. The Pollards opened a tavern in 1659 near the present site of the Park Street Church, and Mrs. Pollard continued the business after her husband's death. When she died in Boston on December 6, 1725, at the age of 104, she left 130 descendants. Judge Samuel Sewall was on of her pallbearers, and he also presided over the reading of her will. 4

The unidentified Pollard painter depicted the subject without idealization. The deeply shadowed and elongated features of the face are balanced by the softly modeled arm and hand with its gracefully attenuated fingers. The symmetry of Pollard's large white collar emphasizes the severity of her face. The rather primitive painting style indicates that the work was probably painted by an American, rather than a European artist. Furthermore, the porthole format, the position of Pollard close to the viewer, and the graceful hand holding a book suggest that the painter based his composition of European mezzotints after portraits by Kneller.5 Due to stylistic similarities, about twelve portraits painted during the early 1720s have been ascribed to this artist. They include portraits of Henry Gibbs (ca. 1721, Art Institute of Chicago); Elisha Cook, Sr. (Peabody Museum, Salem); and Mary Gardner Coffin (Nantucket Historical Association).6

1. Jonathan L. Fairbanks and Robert F. Trent. New England Begins: The Seventeenth Century. 3:475, Boston, 1982.

 

2. New England Courant, Dec.11, 1725.

 

3. Massachusetts Historical Society Collections, 3d ser., 7:291.

 

4. Maurice J. Pollard, comp. The History of the Pollard Family in America. Dover, NH., 1960. pp.47-48; New England Courant, Dec 11, 1725.

5. Waldron Phoenix Belknap, Jr. American Colonial Painting: Materials for a History. Cambridge, Mass. 1959, p.272.

 

6. Richard H. Saunders and Ellen G. Miles. American Colonial Portraits, 1700-1776. Washington, 1987, p.5; Wayne Craven. Colonial American Portraiture:The Economic, Religious, Social, Cultural, Philosophical, Scientific and Aesthetic Foundations. New York, 1986, p.48.