Published: June 10, 2015
(Left) Captain Samuel Badger (1794–1857). Photos courtesy Ralph Morang Photography.
(Right) Mrs Apphia Badger (1795–1848)
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — One of the most important surviving collections of folk portraits from northern New England has been donated anonymously to the Portsmouth Historical Society in honor of Jean E. and Joseph G. Sawtelle.
“Joe and Jean Sawtelle wanted these paintings to be together and to be in Portsmouth. They are coming home. This is the biggest gift the historical society has received in many years and they are incredibly valuable, not just for our collection, but for the maritime story they tell about Portsmouth and its shipbuilding past,” said Maryellen Burke, executive director, Portsmouth Historical Society. The portraits are now on display at the John Paul Jones House Museum.
The six portraits of the Badger family were likely painted by Jonathan Treadwell, when he visited Portsmouth in 1847 or 1848. During that time, Treadwell had advertised in the local papers that he was available to paint portraits in his studio at 28 Market Street. The portraits may have been commissioned as a memorial after the death of George W. Badger in 1847 while on business in New Orleans. Treadwell, intriguingly, noted in one of his ads, “A likeness may be taken after death if application is taken immediately.” Such may have been the case after the unfortunate demise of the young George Badger.
Consulting curator of the John Paul Jones House Museum, Gerald W.R. Ward, notes, “The Badger family portraits are a rare constellation of works that are significant as both works of art and documents of history. Painted in a realistic, bold manner by Jonathan Treadwell, the family members gaze out at us directly, each instantly recognizable as an individual. The portraits, probably commissioned at a somber time in the family’s history, are tangible and powerful reminders of the importance of images as the bearers of family memory and community traditions.”
The John Paul Jones House is at 43 Middle Street. For information, 603-436-8420 or www.portsmouthhistory.org.
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