Published: July 3, 2018
WILLIAMSBURG, VA. – In the first half of the Eighteenth Century, William Dering was a well-connected dancing master and artist who lived and worked in Williamsburg. Today, only six of Dering’s paintings are known to survive; four, including the artist’s only known signed and dated portrait, are in Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s collection, the largest assemblage of his work. Now, a circa 1745 large scale oil on canvas portrait of Joyce Armistead Booth (Mrs Mordecai Booth), enters the collection through a gift from the sitter’s descendants. The portrait also joins the portrait of the subject’s son, George Booth. Until now, the painting of Joyce Armistead Booth, which is in remarkable condition and survives in its original frame, has descended through the Booth family.
“Rare early works by local artists such as William Dering expand the depth and breadth of our collections and better enable us to share America’s enduring story,” said Mitchell B. Reiss, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s president and CEO. “We are particularly grateful for gifts such as this since they allow us to teach history in a very human and personal way.”
“Executed in saturated, well-preserved reds, blues and golds, and measuring more than four feet in height, this likeness of Booth is visually arresting,” said Ronald L. Hurst, the foundation’s Carlisle H. Humelsine chief curator and vice president for collections, conservation and museums. “The portrait commands the viewer’s attention, and in so doing, provides a window into the goals and aspirations of early Virginia’s planter aristocracy.”
This Dering portrait is significant to ongoing research that Colonial Williamsburg’s experts are undertaking. Laura Barry, Juli Grainger curator of paintings, drawings and sculpture, and Shelley Svoboda, senior conservator of paintings, are at work on a comprehensive study of the artist and his work from both historical and technical perspectives. The portrait of Booth, especially due to its pristine condition, informs this research and will help the experts to better understand the nuances in Dering’s other canvases.
The portrait of Joyce Armistead Booth is a gift from Julia Miles Brock, Edward Taliaferro Miles and Georginana Serpell Miles in memory of their mother, Alice Taliaferro Miles. It will be included in a future exhibition of the artist’s portraits to be held at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg.
“The painting of Joyce Armistead Booth, my five-times great-grandmother, has been a part of my life for all 74 years, but Miss Joyce (as we were taught to call her) is nearly 300 years old,” said Julia Miles Brock of Virginia. “My brother, sister and I decided it was time she was in a museum with its attendant care, proper storage and an appreciative audience.”
For additional information, www.colonialwilliamsburg.com or 888-965-7254.
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