By Janine Yorimoto Boldt
Colonial Virginia Portraits is an interactive database of oil portraits with a documented history in Virginia or featuring colonial Virginia subjects painted before ca. 1776. This includes portraits painted in both the colonies and abroad. While most subjects are colonists, there are also records of portraits of family, friends, and officials from England or elsewhere that hung in Virginia homes. It also includes portraits of colonial Virginians that were sent or left abroad. The database does not include miniature portraits, prints, or public commissions of public figures, such as the portraits of the monarchs that hung in government buildings. Instead, the emphasis of this project is on domestic portraiture.
Colonial Virginia Portraits represents the primary resources that I have collected and that inform my scholarship on the topic. Since 2015, I have gathered information regarding colonial Virginia portraits from museum collections, archives, and a variety of published sources. This database is not exhaustive. Many of the references I found to portraits in wills and family histories were discovered by chance. A systematic search of colonial Virginia wills and inventories would surely reveal more portraits. All of the information is subject to change based on new research. If you have information about one of the portraits in the database or information about a portrait that you believe is from colonial Virginia or represents a colonial Virginian, please reach out using the comment feature at the bottom of the page.
While the research contained in these pages is mine, this website is produced in collaboration with the Omohundro Institute of Early American History & Culture (also known as the OI). The OI supports scholars and scholarship of early America and it is their aim—and mine—that this website will prove to be a useful tool for all those interested in colonial portraiture as well as inspire further conversations about these images and histories. We hope that Colonial Virginia Portraits will continue to grow and inspire new research.
Wherever possible, images are provided for reference purposes and personal research use only. These images have been generously shared by a number of institutions and private owners.
Portraits can be browsed by family name, artist, historic location, decade, and attributes. Individual portraits also are searchable by tagged features and keywords. For more information, click here: