View full screen - View 1 of Lot 1652. WILLIAM MATTHEW PRIOR | BUST PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG BLACK GENTLEMAN.
1652

WILLIAM MATTHEW PRIOR | BUST PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG BLACK GENTLEMAN

Estimate:

8,000

to
- 12,000 USD

Property of Various Owners

WILLIAM MATTHEW PRIOR | BUST PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG BLACK GENTLEMAN

WILLIAM MATTHEW PRIOR | BUST PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG BLACK GENTLEMAN

Estimate:

8,000

to
- 12,000 USD

Lot sold:

112,500

USD

WILLIAM MATTHEW PRIOR (1806-1873)

BUST PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG BLACK GENTLEMAN


oil on artist board

circa 1840

14 ⅛ by 10 ⅛ in.

In overall good condition. Some scattered inpainting above the sitter's head and to the proper left side, as well as the proper left side of his coat. Negligible areas of inpaint on his cheek and forehead. A heavy coat of varnish of a later date with general light craquelure.


In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.

The presence of African-American sitters in Prior’s work is expansive in comparison to other artists of his time, when racism in the United States flourished, even in the pro-Abolitionist city of Boston where Prior worked. Nevertheless, black sitters are still extremely rare and constitute less than one percent of the artist oeuvre. In some cases, Prior would sign his portraits of African-Americans both as an artistic statement and expression of his moral values. This portrait of a young black man is portrayed in Prior’s flat style, identical to the way in which he had portrayed white men (seen, for example, in the previous lot in this sale of the Bust Portrait of a Man with Sideburns). While the democratizing of portraiture was a result of the times, economy, and Prior's own religious and social convictions, it is evident that this portrait of the black gentleman was executed with equality in mind.


Skin may differ; but affection dwells in white and black just the same. There is [no] justice in . . . slavery . . . being inconsistent with God's government and inconsistent with our declaration and constitution as a nation. - William Matthew Prior, Empyrean Canopy, 1868.