Portrait of a Gentleman
ARTIST: William P. Sheys (active 1813-1821) was a student of John Wesley Jarvis (1780-1839) in New York City. He is listed in the New York City directory in 1813 and 1814 as a miniature painter at 15 Liberty Street. He is listed again in the 1820 city director as a portrait and miniature painter at 38 Broad Street. He evidently traveled to Charleston, South Carolina, in 1816 when he painted this portrait of a young man. The early 19th century American art historian William Dunlap (1766-1839) wrote that “Sheys was a pupil of John Wesley Jarvis (1780-1840), of uncommon talent, but he sunk to vicious courses, and died a common sailor in a foreign land.”
Shey’s work is very rare. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has two examples of Sheys work in miniature: a Portrait of a Lady dated 1813 (MMA acc. 1998.349) and a Portrait of a Gentleman dated 1821 (MMA acc. 2006.235.185). A search of the Frick Art Reference Library and the Smithsonian Inventories of American Painting and Sculpture locates only four other full-size portraits by Sheys. Of these, only two are of known sitters: James Mapes in a private collection, and Samuel Francis du Pont in the collection of the Winterthur Museum (WM acc. 1959.0847).
DESCRIPTION: Painting, oil on mahogany panel, of young man, half-right, with dark hair and side-burns, white shirt, tie and vest, with black coat supporting a high collar. There is an inscription on the back of the panel.