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John Van Cortlandt

John Van Cortlandt (1718-1747) was about thirteen years old when he sat for this portrait, executed by the same colonial painter who depicted his brother Pierre in the portrait on display in the American Identities galleries nearby. The sitter is portrayed in the grand manner and scale appropriate to the wealthy and powerful Van Cortlandt family, whose roots in America went back to 1639, when John's great-grandfather arrived in America as a soldier with the Dutch East India Company. The artist employed a popular British mezzotint portrait print as the source for this ambitious composition and for details such as the fawn, the tree, the masonry wall, and the pilaster, as well as the curved stone step before the figure. The landscape backdrop was once thought to depict the Van Cortlandt estate, but it is now recognized that this detail is also based on the print.

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