Wyntje (Lavinia) Van Vechten
Attributed to Nehemiah Partridge
Portraits of Pan-American Privilege
These women’s ancestors were among the first European colonizers of the Americas. Some of those colonists crossed the Atlantic to serve the global ambitions of the various crowns of Europe, and others came as economic and religious refugees from Spain, England, and the Dutch Republic. By the eighteenth century, fabulous fortunes had been amassed throughout the region, reflected here in the European-inspired dress and jewelry worn by three privileged Americans.
Miguel Cabrera, eighteenth-century Mexico’s premier painter, portrayed Doña María de la Luz wearing imported silk brocade and five chiqueadores, or glued false beauty spots. Boston’s leading portraitist, John Singleton Copley, painted the monarchist Abigail Pickman Gardiner sporting an uncorseted dress—probably the artist’s invention, since the style was considered inappropriate in New England society but was the height of London fashion. The Hudson Valley portraitist Nehemiah Partridge captured Wyntje Van Vechten’s likeness with more restraint, emphasizing her simple hairstyle, minimal jewelry, and modest dress.
Oil on linen
40 3/16 x 34 9/16 in. (102 x 87.8 cm)
frame: 49 3/16 x 43 9/16 x 2 1/4 in. (124.9 x 110.6 x 5.7 cm) (show scale)
Inscribed lower right: "Etas. Su[e] / 18- / 172"
Dick S. Ramsay Fund
This item is not on view
Attributed to Nehemiah Partridge (American, 1683-before 1737). Wyntje (Lavinia) Van Vechten, 1720. Oil on linen, 40 3/16 x 34 9/16 in. (102 x 87.8 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Dick S. Ramsay Fund, 43.36 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 43.36_SL1.jpg)
overall, 43.36_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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Were colonial paintings so flat because it was the style or did the painters lack the training?
The flatness is primarily due to a lack of training! Most professional painters in the colonies had not received much formal education. They might have apprenticed with an older painter, but there were no art schools yet. They weren't able to study perspective and lighting in an academy, so their finished works often have that flat appearance. They were concentrating more on basic shapes and outlines.
Also, they were sometimes working from printed reproductions of European paintings, so something could be lost in translation.
Who is this lady? Is she Dutch? Is the apple a biblical reference?
Wyntje Van Vechten was born in the colonies to a family that was Dutch in origin. Her family lived in Catskill, New York and were the descendants of some of the earliest European colonizers of North America. She was 18 when this portrait was painted. It may have been made to mark her arrival at the age for marriage! The fruit is most likely meant to symbolize fertility (she would hope to become a mother as well as a wife) and natural beauty. Also, certain fruits were even status symbols in the colonies, where they could be hard to grow.