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Mary (Dutcher) Seabrook

The Payne Limner
Place Made:
Richmond Virginia United States of America
Date Made:
oil on canvas
Canvas: HOA: 38 1/8″; WOA: 31 1/8″ Framed: HOA:41 1/2″; WOA: 34 3/4″
Accession Number:
SITTER: Mary Dutcher (or Dutchess) Seabrook (1742-1808) was born in Philips Manor, New York on October 30, 1742 to David Duytcher and his wife, Sarah Storm. She was a descendant of the early New York Dutch settler, William de Duytscher. In 1761, Mary wed Nicholas Brown Seabrook at the Dutch Reformed Church in New York City. Two years later, they moved to Portsmouth, Virginia, where her husband conducted extensive trade as a commercial sea captain. In 1771, they moved to the port city of Norfolk. Four years later, they moved to Richmond where the Seabrooks invested in downtown real estate and a nearby plantation, Dungaroon, in Hanover County. Nicholas and Mary Seabrook had six children, all of them born in Virginia, and three lived to adulthood. Mary survived her husband by eighteen years and died in Richmond in 1808.

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 lady wearing a finely embroidered and striped silk gown with ruffled sleeves, a lace cap, a black string necklace with a locket, and a lavender-colored artificial silk flower at her bodice. She holds a fan and a kerchief in her hands, with a gold wedding band on her left hand.

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 consigned 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