MAKER: James Evans first appeared as a carver and gilder in New York City in 1810. During the War of 1812, he reported that he was 36 years old, 5 foot, 9 inches tall with a fair complextion and sandy hair, a carver by trade from Great Britain. By 1817, Evans had relocated to Richmond, Virginia, where he advertised in the local newspapers his skills as a carver, gilder, and picture frame maker. The rough, unfinished condition of the white pine drawer bottoms might indicate a northern origin and that Evans simply imported and labeled this piece, although Evans’s advertisements in Richmond indicate that he sold articles of his own make.
The label itself was engraved and signed by John Blennerhassetet Martin (1797-1857), an Irish-born craftsman who, like Evans, arrived first in New York but moved to Richmond by 1816. There, he advertised as a “Seal Cutter and Engraver.” He continued to work as an engraver and lithographer, but after 1840 he focused primarily on his career as an artist. Martin painted portraits of Chief Justice John Marshall, US Senator Benjamin Watkins Leigh, and James Armistead Lafayette, an African-American patriot of the American Revolution. John B. Martin and his family are buried in Richmond’s Shockoe Hill Cemetery.
INSCRIPTION: On label, “JAMES EVANS, LOOKING-GLASS AND PICTURE/ FRAME MAKER MAIN STREET RICHMOND, VA./ Pictures, Portraits & Ladies Needle Work/ Elegantly framed in Oil or Burnish[ed]/ Gilding Looking-Glass Plates Resilvered and old Work Reguilt/ N.B. Piano Fortes tuned and Repaired. – J.B. Martin, Sc., Richmd.”