Alexander Spotswood (1676-1740)

Date: 1736

Alexander Spotswood was born in Tangier. He fought under the Duke of Marlborough in the War of Spanish Succession. He was Lieutenant Governor of Virginia (1710-1722) before settling at Germanna in Spotsylvania County in 1729. He married Anne Butler Brayne while in England in 1724. Another version of this portrait descended in the Spotswood family through a grandson, along with those of his wife and brother, but it is unclear what the relationship is between the two portraits. The other copy was recorded fairly early in the nineenth-century at Nottingham Plantation, home of the subject’s grandson. It is possible that one is a contemporary copy of another. This portrait descended at Chelsea Plantation through his daughter’s descendants. His daughter, Anna Catherine Spotswood married Bernard Moore of Chelsea.

Reference: “The person who has the honour to wait upon you with this letter, is a man of a good family, but either by the frowns of fortune, or his own mismanagement, is obligd to see his bread a little of the latest in a strange land. His name is Bridges and his profession painting, and if you have any employment for him in that way, he will be proud of obeying your commands. He has drawn my children, and several others in this neighborhood, and tho’ he have not the masterly hand of a Lilly or a Kneller, yet had he liv’d so long ago, as when places were given to the most deserving, he might have pretended to be serjeant-painter of Virginia,” William Byrd II to Spotswood, 22 December 1735

Dimensions: 48 1/8 x 38 5/8 in. (122.24 x 98.1 cm.)

The subject wears a dark red jacket over a yellow waistcoat with elaborate gold-embroidered trim and gold buttons. He wears a gray wig and stands with his right hand on his hip and his left hand holding a rolled up piece of paper. Although the paper in this portrait has no legible markings, the version at the Library of Virginia features a drawing of a military plan or building. A dress sword is on his left hip. He is turned three quarters to his left. In the distances is a view of a fortress.

See: Colonial Williamsburg eMuseum; Marion Tinling, ed., Correspondence of the Three William Byrds of Westover, 1684-1776 (1977), 468; Encyclopedia Virginia; Graham Hood, Charles Bridges and William Dering: Two Virginia Painters, 1735-1750 (1978), 40-43.

Family: Spotswood
Decade: 1730s
Credits: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Museum Purchase, 1940-359.