Description Mrs. John Barker (the wife of the soldier and prominent Philadelphia politician and mayor General John Barker) is shown wearing a black dress with a wide, white collar and a white cap. William Russell Birch studied in London. Sir Joshua Reynolds, the leading British portrait painter of his day, commissioned Birch to make small enamel copies of his oil paintings to preserve a record of their colors in case the paintings faded. In 1794 Birch and his family emigrated to Philadelphia, then the capital and largest and wealthiest city in America. Birch brought with him a letter of recommendation from Benjamin West, and he soon set up shop painting enamel miniatures. Enamel was the favored medium for minuitures in England from ca. 1630 into the 18th century. Birch was the most acclaimed American miniaturists working in enamel. Archival photographs show this portrait and its companion piece in conventional nineteenth-century frames, now lost, suggesting they were once displayed hanging on a wall.
Provenance Abraham Jay Fink, Baltimore; by bequest to A. J. Fink Foundation, Inc., Baltimore, 1963; given to Walters Art Museum, 1963.
Inscriptions [Signature] In enamel at bottom left corner: W. B.
Credit Gift of the A. Jay Fink Foundation, Inc., Baltimore, in memory of Abraham Jay Fink, 1963
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