Edward Hill III (d. 1726)

Artist: Unknown
Date: probably 1680-1700

This portrait has been identified by family tradition as Edward Hill IV (d. ca. 1706, life dates based on family tradition). Edward Hill IV, by tradition, died around age 16 and was the son of Edward Hill III and Elizabeth Williams. There is almost no contemporary record of him. Stylistically, it appears to be an English portrait from the 1680s, maybe the 1690s. It is similar in style to the portrait of William Byrd II (1674-1744) as a young boy. Therefore, it is very likely a portrait of Edward Hill III who was a child during the 1680s. Edward Hill III had at least three children with his wife, Elizabeth Williams (d. 1710): Martha, Elizabeth, and Edward. Martha married and lived in England. Edward died young. Elizabeth Hill married John Carter and they inherited Shirley Plantation. The portrait has descended at Shirley Plantation. It was certainly painted in England. Edward Hill III likely was sent to England for some education. He was also painted as an adult.

Dimensions: 51 3/4 x 41 1/2 in. (131.45 x 105.14 cm.)

The subject sits in an antique Roman military costume with gold brocade fabric featuring silver embroidery and fringe, a blue fringe skirt and shoulder piece, a gold, bejeweled lion epaulet, and white shirt, with a red textile wrapped around him, and bejeweled Roman sandals on his feet. He sits on a large stone structure in a wooded landscape and points to the distance where an African groom appears with a dark horse, and a county house is visible in the far distance near hills or mountains.

See: Janine Yorimoto Boldt, “The Story of Edward Hill and the African Groom at Shirley Plantation,” Panorama: Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art 6, no. 2 (Fall 2020); Janine Yorimoto Boldt, “‘Constantly to look at me’: Slavery and the Development of Colonial American Portraiture,” Winterthur Portfolio (Summer/Autumn 2022): 127-166.

Family: Hill
Decade: 1680s1690s
Credits: Courtesy of Shirley Plantation.