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Hannah (Dart) Roper

Theus, Jeremiah
Place Made:
Charleston South Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
oil on canvas
HOA: 30; WOA: 25
Accession Number:
SITTER: Hannah Dart (1756-1827) was the daughter of Benjamin Dart (d.1782), a merchant and one of the two treasurers of the colony of South Carolina in 1771. Her mother was Amelia (Hext) Dart (1733-1803). Hannah married her first cousin, William Roper, an attorney, on May 5, 1771. The Ropers lived at “Cornhill” on the Ashley River and at two locations on East Bay at different times. There were nine children born of this marriage but only three survived to maturity. Roper died in the early 1780s and Hannah received a life estate in his personal property which was considerable. She died in 1827.

The painting’s attribution to Jeremiah Theus is based on stylistic details. Note for example the high brow, the tight hairstyle and the nosegay perched on top of the head. Also characteristic of Theus’ work are the prominent nose and pursed lips, the latter carried to a greater extreme in other works. Theus also painted other family members, including her brother John Dart (1750-1782) in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA acc. 67.268.1). John married Henrietta Sommers (1750-1783), whose portrait is also in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA acc. 67.268.2). Henrietta Sommers was the daughter of Humphrey Sommers, whose portrait by Theus is in the MESDA collection (MESDA acc. 3974).

ARTIST: Jeremiah Theus (1716-1774) was born in Switzerland and immigrated to South Carolina with his family came to South Carolina when he was nineteen. His father, Simon Theus received a land grant for 250 acres on the Edisto River in Orangeburg, South Carolina.

Jeremiah Theus was in Charleston and working as an artist by 1740 when he placed an advertisement in the South Carolina Gazette. He wrote that “all Gentlemen and Ladies may have their Pictures drawn, likewise Landskips of all sizes, Crests and Coats of Arms for Coaches and Chaises. Likewise for the Conveniency of those who live in the Country, he is willing to wait on them at their respective Plantations.” Over the next three decades Theus would establish himself as the painter of choice for the Lowcountry elite. It is estimated that more than 170 portraits by Theus survive.

Like most eighteenth-century artists, Theus sometimes relied on English mezzotints to inspire the poses and costume of his sitters. There are a number of works, for example, that use a variation of the dress worn by Maria the Countess of Coventry in a mezzotint by Richard Houston after a painting by Francis Cotes. An example of this print is in the National Portrait Gallery of the United Kingdom. (NPG UK acc. D34175). However, these same mezzotints were also an important mechanism by which London fashion of was transmitted to Charleston. The refinement of dress and pose in Theus’s sitters was a reflection of their status in the larger 18th century material world.

RELATED WORKS: A sampler in the MESDA collection dated 1743 was worked by Hannah’s aunt, Elizabeth Hext (MESDA acc. 5517).

MESDA has five portraits by Theus: Sarah Proctor (Daniell) Willson (MESDA acc. 2024.52); Elias Ball III (MESDA acc. 2739); Humphrey Sommers” (MESDA acc. 3974); Hannah Dart” (MESDA acc. 4087); and Ann (Theus) Lee, the artist’s daughter (MESDA acc. 1179).

REFERENCES: Margaret Simons Middleton, “Jeremiah Theus: Colonial Artist of Charles Town” (Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 1991)

Carolyn J. Weekley, “Painters and Paintings of the Early American South” (Williamsburg, Virginia: Colonial Williamsburg and the Yale University Press, 2013)

DESCRIPTION: Three-quarter length portrait of young woman, three quarter view. Sitter wears blue silk dress with lace ruffles at neck and lace trimmed sleeves. She also wears a sprig of flowers on her head, with her hair pulled tightly back, and double row of pearls around her neck, with a blue bow at the nape. She holds a pink rose in her left hand.

Credit Line:
MESDA Purchase Fund