Collections › MESDA Collection › Amelia (Heiskell) Lauck

Amelia (Heiskell) Lauck

Frymire, Jacob
Place Made:
Winchester Virginia United States of America
Date Made:
oil on canvas
HOA: 32 3/16″; WOA: 27 3/16″ including frame
Accession Number:
SITTER: Amelia Heiskell Lauck (1760-1842) was one of six children of Christopher (1727-1808) and Eve Heiskell (1730-1788) of Winchester, Virginia. Her father owned a considerable amount of property in Winchester and was a founder of the “Old Stone” Lutheran Church there. At age nineteen, she married Peter Lauck (1753-1839), and was to bear him eleven children. They lived first at the Red Lion Inn, later moving to “Edgehill,” which Peter built around 1800. In 1835, he sold “Edgehill” and bought back the Red Lion, which had been sold to their son Isaac in 1831. At the time of her husband’s death, Amelia and he were again living at the Red Lion.

Amelia is best known as the artist responsible for a number of surviving pieced and quilted bedcoverings. Three examples of her work—two quilts and a pillow cover—are in the Colonial Williamsburg collection (CW acc. 2006.609.1,A, 2008.609.6; 2006.609.1,B). Two examples of her work are in the collection of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR acc. 2006.3.1, 87.50).

ARTIST: Jacob Frymire (1770-1822) was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the son of a farmer. His schooling was limited to a “plain English education,” consisting of reading and writing English. Between 1794 and 1806, Jacob traveled as an itinerant portrait painter. Surviving portraits in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Kentucky, attest to his presence in those states. Frymire painted both large portraits and portrait miniatures.

In 1816, after his father’s death, Jacob inherited a portion of his father’s farm. Surviving records suggest that by 1819 he had largely given up painting for on farming. At his death in 1822 he was survived by his wife and nine children.

ATTRIBUTION AND DATE: Exhibition and auction records indicate that the work is signed on the back of the canvas “Painted by J. Frymire / December 1, 1801.” Unfortunately, the painting has been relined. The inscription was not photographed before relining. A comparison to Frymire’s other works leaves little doubt that the work is by his hand. However, the 1801 date is problematic. Amelia does not appear to be forty-years-old. Research by Annabeth Hayes during the 2017 MESDA Summer Institute suggests that the date recorded for this painting is wrong. A comparison with Frymire’s dated works suggests that Amelia Lauck was probably painted about a decade later, towards the end of his career. Scientific analysis may eventually help us read the inscription behind the new canvas lining and determine if it was indeed transcribed wrong.

REFERENCES: Linda Crocker Simmons, “Jacob Frymire: American Limner” (Washington, D.C.: Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1975)

Annabeth Hayes, “Unpacking Jacob Frymire’s Portrait of Amelia Lauck” (MESDA Summer Institute, 2017)

DESCRIPTION: Half-length portrait of seated woman, dressed in black dress, patterned shawl and white cap. Woman holds book and is seated on a Windsor chair. In the background is a curtained window opening on a vista with trees.

Credit Line:
Gift of Frank L. Horton