William Byrd III (1728-1777)

Artist: Unknown
Date: ca. 1747-1750

This portrait was occasionally attributed to Cosmo Alexander based on his wife’s signed and dated portrait by Alexander in 1771. However, the technique does not match Alexander’s known paintings and the costume dates closer to ca. 1750. Byrd traveled to England in 1747 and probably commissioned this portrait there. William Byrd III married first, Elizabeth Hill Carter, and second, Mary Willing of Philadelphia. He inherited Westover and built the home still standing today. The subject was also painted as a child.

Mary Willing Byrd’s 1813 will states “I give to my said daughter M[aria] H[orsmanden] Page the portrait of her honored father and one of myself.” This is probably that portrait, which descended along with one of Mary Willing Byrd.

Dimensions: 30 x 25 in. (76.2 x 63.5 cm.)

The portrait represents a man turned three-quarters to his right with his right hand in his waistcoat. He wears a brown jacket with elaborate gold trim and a white waistcoat with the same trim. His shirt has lace cuffs. A hat trimmed with white fur and a button is tucked under his left arm. He wears a white wig with a large, dark ribbon holding his hair back.

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; Encyclopedia Virginia 

Family: Byrd
Decade: 1740s
Credits: Courtesy Library of Virginia.