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Martha Sara (Davant) Williams

Scarborough, William Harrison
Place Made:
Columbia South Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
oil on canvas
HOA: 37-1/2″; WOA: 32″
Accession Number:
SITTER: Martha Sara (Davant) Williams was born in Beaufort County, South Carolina, to James Davant (1783-1859) and Mary (Whaley) Davant (1788-1818). In 1830 she married Matthew Jouett Williams (1805-1873).

In 1847 the artist William Harrison Scarborough stayed with the Williams family in Columbia, South Carolina, for six months. During that time he completed five large oil portraits for the family, including this one and a companion portrait of her husband (MESDA acc. 5369.1)

ARTIST: William Harrison Scarborough (1812-1871). Portrait and miniature painter, born November 7, 1812, at Dover (Tennessee). After studying art and medicine in Cincinnati and working as a portraitist for a few years in Tennessee, Scarborough moved to South Carolina in 1830. In 1836 he married into a prominent family there and he lived in Darlington District for several years before settling in 1843 at Columbia, where he made his home for the rest of his life. He enjoyed considerable success as a painter of portraits and miniatures in North and South Carolina and Georgia, and also made frequent visits to New York City, though he never had a studio in the North. In 1857 he went abroad for a year of European study. Scarborough died in Columbia on August 16, 1871. His sketchbooks, diaries, and many examples of his portrait work are owned by descendants in South Carolina.

FRAME: Original carved and gilt frame.

RELATED OBJECTS: The MESDA Collection also contains portraits of both Matthew Jouett Williams and his wife Martha Sara (Davant) Williams by William Harrison Scarborough (MESDA acc. 5369.1-2) as well as a portrait miniature of Martha Sarah (Davant) Williams’s great-great Grandfather John Davant (MESDA acc. 5369.3).

REFERENCES: Helen Kohn Hennig, “William Harrison Scarborough” (Columbia, South Carolina: 1937)

DESCRIPTION: Oil on canvas, portrait of Mrs. Matthew Jouett Williams (Martha Sara Davant Williams); she is facing 3/4 front, she has brown hair, blue eyes; wearing a black dress with a white lace collar and circular pendant. She sits on a red upholstered chair with a dark brown background; on the right side is a column and a view of a landscape. Gold frame with scrolled foliage motif at each corner. The frame body has a snakeskin pattern.

Purchased from the artist by the sitter for $35 in 1847.

For more information on the provenance of this painting see: Marolyn Caldwell, “Through Time and Space: The Saga of a Southern Family’s Prized Portraits” in Old Salem Museums and Gardens Magazine (Fall/Winter 2008) 10-13.

Credit Line:
MESDA Purchase Fund