Robert “King” Carter (ca. 1664-1732)

Artist: Unknown
Date: probably 1720-1730

Robert Carter became one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in Virginia. He was the son of John Carter the emigrant (ca. 1613-1670) and his fourth wife, Sarah Ludlow Carter. He married first, Judith Armistead, and second, Elizabeth Landon. This portrait of him descended from his son Landon who inherited Sabine Hall. It descended with a portrait tentatively identified as his second wife, Elizabeth Landon Carter. The suggested date for the portrait is the 1720s. No portrait was left to Landon in Robert Carter’s 1726 will, suggesting that the portrait was done in the late 1720s or ca. 1730. There is a possible reference to this portrait in the subject’s 1727 diary. There are other portraits recorded of this subject, one that descended from his son, John Carter, and another that was left to his son Robert Carter in his will.

Possible references: “Coll Page with me rid thither came home to Dinnr he the in the [sic] Coach urgd me mightily to have my Picture drawn I denyd it as strongly”;
“Sept 1 yesterday sent 6 bushels Wheat to my great Mill the day before 6 busls to my little Mill mr Jones came here last Night Stag came here abt 11 I sat to the Paintr.” 28 August and 1 September 1727, in Robert Carter’s Diary

Dimensions: 44 1/2 x 35 1/2 in. (113.03 x 90.7 cm.)

The subject wears a brown jacket with a matching waistcoat and gold buttons. He wears a gray wig. He is seated in a red upholstered chair, turned three-quarters to his left. His right hand rests on the arm of the chair. His left hand wears a glove and holds the other glove. His left arm rests on a table covered in a red cloth with a letter on top of it. The canvas is an unusual size.

See: Edmund Berkeley, Jr., ed., The Diary, Correspondence, and Papers of Robert “King” Carter of Virginia, 1701-1732 (2009); Wayne Craven, Colonial American Portraiture (1986), 214-216; Encyclopedia Virginia; FARL

Family: Carter
Decade: 1720s1730s