Striking Folk Art Portrait of Young Oliver Peck

New England, likely Massachusetts, ca. 1831-1842. 

Provenance includes the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

Oil on canvas. In the continuum of folk portraits between formal and primitive, there is a “sweet spot. This dramatic portrait nails that sweet spot! The toddler boy stands with aid from a chair, is elaborately attired in a fashionable patterned “long dress”, and that expression! Note how the artist cleverly focused the viewer on his upper body and face by allowing the chair to “shadow” everything below. There are no background distractions.

The subject, Oliver Harris Peck (1831-1842) lived in Franklin, Norfolk, Massachusetts, just southwest of Boston. He was the son of Rosallana Harris and Whipple Peck (who’s father Soloman Peck was born in 1769 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony).

There is a resemblance to works by celebrated artist Sheldon Peck, particularly in the expression, and in the patterning of the dress. Further, the last name “Peck” would seem just too much to be simply a coincidence. However, I haven’t been able establish a linkage between Oliver and Sheldon, yet further research may benefit.

In terrific condition with very minor in-painting. Relined and restretched. Period and likely original gilded frame. Frame size about 37 ½ inches x 30 1/2.

Provenance: Once owned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art; listed (1980.341.10 MMA) in the National Portrait Gallery Catalog of American Portraits, a research archive of the Smithsonian Institution; last 25 years private Massachusetts collection. 

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