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Reverend James Blair was an Anglican minister, Scottish emigrant, and co-founder of the College of William & Mary (1693). He married Sarah Harrison of Virginia and they had no children. His brother was Archibald Blair. Based on the composition, Blair appears to be sitting in the Brafferton Indian School building. The original College building burned in a fire, but by the 1720s, Blair had rebuilt. The phoenix in his portrait is likely a reference to Blair’s prominent role in rebuilding the College.
Dimensions: 49 x 39 3/4 in. (124.46 x 100.96 cm.)
The subject wears religious robes and a white wig. He sits indoors and leans on a bible, which sits on a table covered with a red tablecloth. In the background, a window to his right provides a view of the Wren Building of the College of William & Mary and a phoenix.
References: Graham Hood, Charles Bridges and William Dering: Two Virginia Painters, 1735-1750 (1978), 29-37; Carolyn J. Weekley, Painters and Paintings in the Early American South (2013), 178; Wayne Craven, Colonial American Portraiture (1986), 217-220; Encyclopedia Virginia