Collections › MESDA Collection › Duck and Partridges

Duck and Partridges

Fraser, Charles
Place Made:
Charleston South Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
oil on canvas –gilded wood
HOA 20-1/2″; WOA 18-1/8″
Accession Number:
This trompe l’oeil composition of a duck and partridges against a cypress wall was included in the Charleston exhibition, the “Fraser Gallery” exhibition in Charleston in 1857. In the catalog it was noted as being Charles Fraser’s last work, executed in April 1856. The “Fraser Gallery” retrospective work consisted of 313 portrait miniatures and 139 paintings of various subjects. Based on this catalog, it appears that there was at least a small market for trompe l’oeil still life like this one, probably among a sporting elite who appreciated paintings of their catch.

ARTIST: Charles Fraser (1782-1860) was born in Charleston, South Carolina. He was the fourteenth and last child born to Alexander Fraser and Mary (Grimke) Fraser. At the age of sixteen he followed his family’s wishes and began the study of law. By 1804 he was working in the office of the Attorney-General of South Carolina and in 1807, he was admitted to the bar.

Though Fraser practiced law during his early adulthood, his passion was art. He demonstrated his artistic aptitude at an early age; extant sketchbooks date as early as 1796, when Fraser was only fourteen. He established lifelong friendships with artists such as Thomas Sully (1783-1872), Edward Greene Malbone (1777-1807), and Washington Allston (1779-1843). Unlike many of his contemporaries, Fraser was not an itinerant artist, though he did make five trips to the northern states where he visited the studios of other artists. He Charleston he worked to promote public art exhibitions and collections in Charleston and was a director of the South Carolina Academy of Fine Arts until its closure circa 1832.

Fraser exhibited widely during his lifetime. His work was shown in Philadelphia and New York as well as Charleston. His most important exhibit was the 1857 “Fraser Gallery” exhibit organized in his honor by a group of prominent citizens in Charleston. Over three hundred of his works were included in this exhibit. According to the catalog of the exhibition, his Still Life with Duck and Partridges (acc. 5470) was the last work he painted.

RELATED OBJECTS: It is among a large group of related objects in the MESDA collection with Fraser family histories. These include a Chippendale-style chest of drawers (acc. 2787) with a fitted upper drawer, an easy chair (acc. 2788.2), a candle stand (acc. 2788.1), the painted box created by Fraser for his niece Ann Susan Winthrop (acc. 5471), and a miniature portrait by Fraser of his niece Sophia Fraser (acc. 5509).

FRAME: In its original carved and gilt frame.

DESCRIPTION: Oil on canvas still life of a single duck and two partridges hanging by their legs and tied to a nail. Rendered in a simple, realistic style with rich earthy tones, fine details, and trompe l’oeil elements found in the wood graining.

At the time of the “Fraser Gallery” exhibition in 1857 the painting belonged to Fraser’s nephew, Dr. Henry Winthrop (1803-1890) and descended in the Winthrop family along with a painted box created by Fraser for his niece, Ann Susan Winthrop (acc. 5471).
Credit Line:
MESDA Purchase Fund