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Matthew Jouett 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: Matthew Jouett Williams was born in Columbia County, Georgia, to Clement King Harrison (1772-1808) and Elizabeth (Williams) Harrison (1773-1846) on December 7, 1805. On June 13, 1807 the Augusta Chronicle reported that Clement K. Harrison, Matthew’s father, had committed “A Horrid Murder!” This may have been the reason why Matthew, later in life, assumed his mother’s maiden name as his own.

In 1820 Matthew was appointed a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point. In 1830 he married Martha Sarah Davant (1810-1883) whose portrait is also in the MESDA collection (MESDA acc. 5369.2). Between 1846 and 1854 he was a professor of Mathematics, Natural Philosophy and Astronomy at South Carolina College.

In 1847 Matthew and Martha welcomed the artist William Harrison Scarborough (1812-1871) into their Columbia, South Carolina, home. The artist stayed with the Williams family for six months. During his stay he painted five large oil portraits for which he received $35 apiece.

In 1854 Matthew left South Carolina College and returned to Marietta Georgia.

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: Oirginal 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 Professor Matthew Jouett Williams, facing 3/4 front; he has black hair, blue eyes; wearing a black coat, and vest with a white collared shirt and black tie. He is seated on a red upholstered chair; solid brown background. 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