Collections › MESDA Collection › John Seabrook

John Seabrook

The Payne Limner
Place Made:
Richmond Virginia United States of America
Date Made:
oil on canvas
Canvas: HOA: 38 1/8″; WOA: 32 1/2″ Framed: HOA:41 1/2″; WOA: 36″
Accession Number:
SITTER: John Seabrook (1768-1844) was born in Portsmouth, Virginia on February 17, 1768 to Nicholas Brown and Mary (Dutcher) Seabrook. After graduating from Princeton University, he married Anne Sydnor (1775-1840), a daughter of planters William and Anne (Garland) Sydnor of Hanover County, on October 18, 1793. They had twelve children.

John inherited Dungaroon Plantation from his father, and later owned Oakwell Plantation in Hanover County. Like his father, he invested in downtown Richmond real estate and developed the Seabrook Tobacco Warehouse in Shockoe Bottom. He served as a member of the Richmond Town Council, an elder of the Presbyterian Church in Richmond, and a trustee of the Washington-Henry Academy in Hanover County.

ARTIST: The Payne Limner is an unidentified artist who worked in Richmond and the surrounding counties of Henrico, Hanover, and Goochland in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. With the addition of the five Seabrook family portraits, approximately 18 of his works are now known. His identity derives from the ten surviving portraits of the Payne family, which were completed in Goochland County around 1791. None of these works bears a signature or date, and the attributions are based on the strong stylistic similarities among the various portraits. Many of them display a knowledge of 18th-century British conventions with the inclusion of personal attirbutes for each sitter, such as animals, flowers for girls, and hunting equipment for boys. Ship captain Nicholas Brown Seabrook was painted holding a telescope and pointing to a chart with a ship in the background, while planter Archer Payne was depicted standing beside a plow with a large sheaf of wheat immediately behind him. His triple portrait of two Payne brothers with their nurse is one of the few 18th-century American portraits with the full length image of an enslaved African American person. The Payne Limner’s portraits provide an excellent window into the life and society of late 18th-century Virginia.

Examples of the Payne Limner’s works can be seen in the collections of Colonial Williamsburg, the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, the Virginia Museum of Culture and History, the James Madison Museum, and MESDA.

DESCRIPTION: Painting, oil on canvas, three-quarter length portrait of a young boy of approximatley thirteen years of age holding a long rifle in his left hand while petting a dog with his right hand, a powder horn and a leather shot bag on the table to the right, mountainous scenery in the background, and the profile of a squirrel on the tree.

The five Seabrook portraits remained in the family for six generations, first in Virginia and then with descendants in New Jersey. They descended from Captain Nicholas Brown Seabrook (1739-1790) to his son John Seabrook (1768-1844), to his son Nicholas Brown Seabrook (1799-1866), to his daughter Mary Gordon (Seabrook) Studdiford (1845-after 1930), to her son Douglas Seabrook Studdiford (1880-1971). They were consignd by the last family owner as a group to Nye and Company Auctioneers in New Jersey in January 2017.
Credit Line:
Loan courtesy of Patricia S. and William T. Wilson, III