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Portrait of Frederick T. Proctor

On view

Portrait of Frederick T. Proctor

Artist: Théobald Chartran (French, 1849 - 1907)

Date: 1898
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
Overall: 29 x 23 1/4in. (73.7 x 59.1cm)
Signed: r.side ctr:'Chartran/N.Y. 1898'
Credit Line: Proctor Collection
Object number: PC. 14
Label Text
This pair of portraits was part of the Proctors' 1935 bequest of art to the Institute. The works depict the forty-two-year-old Frederick T. Proctor (1856-1929), and his forty-eight-year-old wife, Rachel (1850-1915). The couple married four years earlier, in December 1894, less than a year after the death of Rachel's mother, Helen Munson Williams (1824-94).

Inscriptions on the front of both paintings indicate that the French artist Théobald Chartran (1849-1907) painted the works in 1898. During these years Chartran regularly traveled to the United States to execute fashionable portraits of the artistic, intellectual and mercantile elite of America's Gilded Age. For this set Chartran depicted Mr. and Mrs. Proctor turned slightly towards each other. By posing the couple in this way the artist followed the long-standing portrait convention in which the woman is depicted at the man's left. This compositional format was used in medieval heraldry and is practiced in traditional Christian marriage ceremonies.

Less than twelve months after being painted the works were shown publicly in Utica at the Loan Exhibition of Oil Paintings and Portraits for the Benefit of St. Luke's Home and Hospital (April 10-22, 1899, cat. nos. 92 & 93). Photographs in the Museum's collection indicate that they hung in Fountain Elms during Frederick and Rachel's married life.

Both portraits have matching Rococo revival frames, although neither has a label or stamp identifying when or where it was made. The decorative details of Rachel's frame are crisply modeled, and the recesses precisely incised. Frederick's frame, by contrast, features slightly coarser decorative details and has a warmer gilded finish. Horizontal wear marks along the lower edge of the oval insert of Frederick's frame may be the result of overly enthusiastic dusting by the Proctor family's domestic staff. Other Proctor frames in the Museum's collection exhibit similar wear.

Paul D. Schweizer
May 2011


The French artist Théobald Chartran (1849-1907) painted this pair of portraits of the forty-two-year-old Frederick T. Proctor (1856-1929), and his forty-eight-year-old wife, Rachel (1850-1915), in 1898. They had married four years earlier, in December 1894, shortly after the death of Rachel's mother, Helen Munson Williams (1824-94), and three years after Rachel's younger sister, Maria (1852-1935), married Frederick's half-brother Thomas R. Proctor (1844-1920).
Chartran regularly traveled to the United States during these years to paint fashionable portraits of the artistic, intellectual and mercantile elite of America's Gilded Age. The couple is shown turned towards each other, with Rachel at Frederick's left. The convention of depicting a woman on a man's left derives from medieval heraldry and is perpetuated, for example, in the right-left orientation a groom and a bride use in traditional Christian marriage ceremonies.
The portraits are noteworthy for the poise with which both figures regard the spectator- a form of polite deportment that originated in the aristocratic courts of the Renaissance. Rachel engages the viewer with a pleasant, suppressed smile, in contrast to Frederick's more straightforward gaze. Equally noteworthy, neither portrait has a visual clue that would suggest this couple's relationship was less than an equal partnership.
The portraits were publically displayed shortly after they were painted in Utica's Loan Exhibition of Oil Paintings and Portraits for the Benefit of St. Luke's Home and Hospital (April 10-22, 1899, cat. nos. 92 & 93). Photographs in the Museum's collection suggest that the works hung in the couple's home, Fountain Elms, for the rest of their married life.
Neither of the two pictures' matching Rococo revival frames has a label identifying where or when it was made. The decorative details of Rachel's frame are crisply modeled, and the recesses precisely incised, whereas Frederick's frame has slightly coarser decorative details and a warmer gilded finish. Horizontal wear marks along the lower edge of the oval insert of Frederick's frame may be the result of overly enthusiastic dusting by the Proctors' domestic staff. Other Proctor frames in the Museum's collection exhibit similar wear.

Paul D. Schweizer
January 2012


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