Mary (Blount) Pettigrew
A Mary Blount was one of the signers of the Edenton “Tea Party” Resolution on October 25, 1774 and there is a good possibility that the subject of this portrait was that signer.
ARTIST: William Joseph Williams was born in New York City in 1759, and was a nephew of the painter John Mare (1739-1802/3) who worked in New York, New England, and North Carolina. Williams was trained in New York—perhaps by Mare—and his earliest known works are dated 1783 from that city. Although it is known that he worked in oil, all of his surviving works are pastel on paper.
Williams pursued a life-long career as an itinerant painter, living and working in Edenton, North Carolina (1785), Virginia (1793), Philadelphia (1796), Georgetown, District of Columbia (1798), Charleston, South Carolina (1801-1804), New Bern, North Carolina (1804-1807), and New York City (1807-1817).
In Edenton in 1785 he lived in the household of his uncle, John Mare, where he drew portraits of, among others, the Reverend Charles Pettigrew and his wife Mary Blount Pettigrew (MESDA acc. 3332, 3333). In Virginia in 1793-94 he spent time in Culpeper County, where he drew portraits of Colonel John Jameson, his wife Elizabeth (Davenport) Jameson, and her father Birkett Davenport (MESDA acc. 2961.1-3)
He concluded his life as an itinerant artist in New Bern, North Carolina, where he worked and taught at the New Bern Academy. In 1821 he converted to Roman Catholicism with his family and added the middle name Joseph. He died in New Bern in 1822.
FRAME: The pastel portrait remains in its original frame.
RELATED WORKS: MESDA owns five pastels by William Joseph Williams: portraits of the Reverend Charles Pettigrew and his wife Mary Blount Pettigrew (MESDA acc. 3332, 3333) done in Edenton, North Carolina, and portraits of Colonel John Jameson, his wife Elizabeth (Davenport) Jameson, and her father Birkett Davenport (MESDA acc. 2961.1-3) done in Culpeper County, Virginia.
DESCRIPTION: Portrait, pastel on canvas, of woman wearing a white hat. She also wears a blue dress with a white bow in the front, and white around the sleeves. She has auburn hair and blue eyes. A string is tied around her neck. There is a sheer piece of lace around her neck and bust. The background is brown, and it is highlighted in blue directly behind her face.