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Mary Willing Byrd was the daughter of Charles Willing and Anne Shippen Willing of Philadelphia. She married William Byrd III in Philadelphia in 1761. She was his second wife. She was the mother of Maria Horsmanden Byrd Page, Evelyn Taylor Byrd Harrison, Abigail Byrd Nelson, Anne Willing Byrd, Charles Willing Byrd, Richard Willing Byrd, and William Byrd. Maria Horsmanden Byrd later married John Page. This portrait was signed and dated: “C Alexr pinxt A.D. 1771”. In Mary Willing Byrd’s will she states: “I give and bequeath to my amiable son John Page of Frederick a portrait of his dear wife and myself.” Mary Willing Byrd was also painted by Matthew Pratt.
The portrait represents a woman sitting on a blue upholstered sofa. She has pearls in her hair and wears an white, imagined dress, which has slashes in the sleeves that reveals pink fabric underneath, which is likely the same pink as the underskirt. Pearls are also wrapped around her arm. She holds a book open in her left hand, which rests in her lap. Her left elbow rests on the arm of the sofa. Her daughter appears to kneel next to her on the sofa and wears a blue gown with ruffles on her sleeve. She also wears a floral hairpiece. The girl has her left arm around her mother’s shoulder. The right hand rests on her mother’s breast. She looks at her mother, who is turned three-quarters to her left towards her daughter.
See: “The Will of Mrs. Mary Willing Byrd, of Westover, 1813, with a List of the Westover Portraits,” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 6, no. 4 (April 1899): 345–58; Carolyn J. Weekley, Painters and Paintings in the Early American South (2013), 296; FARL; Encyclopedia Virginia