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Dr. John Briscoe

Drinker, John
Place Made:
Jefferson County West Virginia United States of America
Date Made:
oil on canvas
HOA: 31 1/2; WOA: 25 1/2
Accession Number:
SITTER: Dr. John Briscoe (1752-1818) and his wife Eleanor (Magruder) Briscoe (1766-1806) lived at Piedmont, an imposing two-story brick house in Jefferson County, West Virginia, near Charlestown. The families had 17th century roots in tidewater Maryland: The Briscoes in St. Mary’s and Charles County, Maryland; the Magruders in Queen Anne County, Maryland. The couple married in 1784 in Frederick County, Maryland. Two years later the formally acquired the land on which Piedmont was built. Though the deed to the house is dated November 22, 1786; however, it is generally believed that the Briscoe family were living on the property for some years prior to that time. It is now generally thought that Piedmont was constructed between 1786 and 1800.

Piedmont was surveyed in 1937 by the Historic American Buildings Survey:

Piedmont was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973:

ARTIST: John Drinker (1760-1826) was a miniaturist, portrait painter, and drawing master, who advertised in 1787 that he was opening a drawing school in Philadelphia with the assistance of Matthew Pratt. Using funds from an inheritance Drinker began investing in Berkeley County, Virginia, land in the 1780s. In 1797 he married Elizabeth Peppers in Berkeley County, West Virginia. Though the couple first lived in Philadelphia, by 1801 they had permanently resettled in Berkeley County. This painting is signed on the reverse “A.D. 1800/ by Drinker.”

RELATED WORKS: RELATED OBJECTS: The MESDA Collection includes five paintings from “Piedmont”, the house built between 1786-1890 for Dr. John Briscoe, Jr. (1752-1818), and Eleanor (Magruder) Briscoe (b.1766). These include portraits of Dr. and Mrs. Briscoe by John Drinker (1760-1826) (MESDA acc. 973.1-2); a portrait of Sarah D. Rutherford by Drinker (MESDA acc. 973.3); and a portrait of General William Darke (1736-1801), by Frederick Kemmelmeyer (1760-1821) (MESDA acc. 973.3).

FRAME: Reproduction frame based on an original frame on another Drinker painting.

REFERENCES: Kate Hughes, “Piedmont’s Portraits: Patrician Image-Making in the Lower Shenandoah Valley”, MESDA Summer Institute 2017.

DESCRIPTION: Portrait of man in brown coat and yellow vest with white stock. He has blue-gray eyes and dark hair. He is a half-length figure, facing half left, posed with hand in his vest. He stands in front of a column and what must be a balustraded porch with green trees and a greenish ground in the distance.

Descended at Piedmont, the Briscoe Family home, in Jefferson County, Virginia.
Credit Line:
MESDA Purchase Fund