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William Byrd II was born at Falls Plantation (later Belvidere) and lived at Westover as an adult. He spent much of his life before 1726 in England. His first wife was Lucy Parke and his second wife was Maria Taylor of England. This portrait was copied after a portrait of Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax by Sir Godfrey Kneller published in 1693. This portrait is dated based on Byrd’s return to Virginia in 1704 following his father’s death but could be later. It is unlikely to be much earlier. The subject was also painted as a child, and in two other portraits as an adult by Hans Hysing and an unknown artist.
This is likely one of the three portraits of William Byrd II mentioned in Mary Willing Byrd’s will. She left her sons Charles Willing Byrd, Richard Willing Byrd, and William Powell Byrd each a portrait of their “G. father.”
One possible reference to this painting is a letter from his brother-in-law, John Custis, which reads: “I did purpose to have desired your own picture att Westopher, for I never did expect to see you more.” – John Custis to William Byrd II, March 1718/19
Dimensions: 49 1/2 x 39 3/4 in. (125.7 x 101 cm.)
The subject wears a dark blue jacket with jeweled embellishments and a red drape around his waist. He wears a long dark wig. His right hand points out towards the landscape. His left hand is on his hip. He is turned three-quarters to his right. There is a dress sword on his hip. He stands outdoors.
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; Josephine Little Zuppan, ed., The Letterbbook of John Custis IV of Williamsburg, 1717-1742 (2005), 50; Carolyn J. Weekley, Painters and Paintings in the Early American South (2013), 85; Wayne Craven, Colonial American Portraiture (1986), 205-213; Encyclopedia Virginia; Colonial Williamsburg eMuseum