Lightfoot woman and child

Artist: Unknown
Date: probably 1740-1760

This portrait was identified in the FARL records as Anne Lewis and her niece, Mildred Howell, later Mrs. William Lightfoot (1723-1783). Mildred Howell Lightfoot (Mrs. William Lightfoot)’s mother was Mildred Lewis Howell (Mrs. John Howell), daughter of John Lewis and Elizabeth Warner Lewis of Warner Hall. One of her sisters was named Anne. However, the costume of this portrait dates it to the 1740s or 1750s. It bears stylistic resemblance to John Hesselius portraits of the early 1750s (see the portrait of Mary Harrison Gordon with James Gordon for comparison). However, this portrait has been restored and overpainted making an artist attribution very difficult. Moreover, aunt-niece portraits are highly unusual. An 1895 family history appears to identify the portrait subjects as Mildred Lewis Howell (Mrs. John Howell) and her daughter, Mildred Howell, later Mrs. William Lightfoot. However, Mildred Howell Lightfoot was too old be represented as a baby in the 1740s-1750s. Therefore, the subject is unclear, though the Lightfoot family at Sandy Point does appear to have inherited a number of Howell family portraits. The most likely subject remains Mildred Howell Lightfoot (Mrs. William Lightfoot, 1723-1783) with one of her children.

Reference: In 1895, an account of the portraits once hanging at Sandy Point: “Portrait of Mrs. Howell, with infant daughter, Mildred (afterwards the wife of William Lightfoot), on her knee. The mother’s figure is life size, and in white court dress. The portrait is a very fine picture, and Volkmar thought it must be a Copley.”

The subjects sit outdoors. The woman wears a white dress with a jeweled clasp at her breast and at her elbows. A young baby wearing a white gown and a white cap sits in her lap and holds a flower.

See: Lyon G. Tyler, “The Lightfoot Family,” William and Mary Quarterly 3, 2 (October 1895): 110; FARL

Decade: 1750s1760s
Credits: Private collection. Photograph by Stephen G. Cleveland, courtesy of the Frick Art Reference Library.