Monday, October 21, 2013

Portrait of Edward Church

Edward Church by Jacques-Antoine Vallin (c. 1760-1835?), oil on canvas, 1809 (?). Vallin was a French painter of mythological and historical subjects as well as landscapes. He studied at the Academie Royale de Peinture in Paris and exhibited at the Paris Salon from 1791 to 1827. His paintings, neoclassical in style and subject matter, repeated well known themes of the day. His other portraits include a group portrait of Edward's wife, daughter, and daughter-in-law,  and the French oculist Joseph Nicholas Blaise Forlenze, (1807; National Gallery of Art, London )exhibited at the Salon in 1808.
This portrait is now owned  by William Church Hagler, Edward Church's great x6 grandson. 

    I was recently astonished and delighted to be contacted by a direct descendant of Edward Church, who advised me that he has a full length portrait of Edward Church (along with some other family portraits) in his possession. The family dates this portrait as being painted in 1809 when Edward would have been sixty-nine years old. If so, he is a rather youthful looking sixty-nine. Edward was living in Paris as early as 1797 or 1798 so the portrait could have been painted some years earlier. Edward served as US consul in Lisbon from 1792 to 1796.
   In any event, this portrait is as close as we are ever likely to come to ascertaining just what Dr. Benjamin Church, Jr. and his father the Deacon looked like, assuming that they shared the same physical characteristics as Edward -  likely, but not certain.
   I will leave it to the reader to make his/her own assessment, for now. My own view will follow.
   I was also informed of a self-published, hitherto unknown to me, family genealogy/history of the Edward Church branch of the family. There is no copy in the Library of Congress and the book is out of print but there are single copies scattered in libraries across the country. I have decided to delay my next post on Edward Church until such time as I have had the opportunity to review this book and do any research that may be required as a result of that review.
   In the interim I have been able to confirm that Edward's son Benjamin died at the age of two, further cementing my belief that Benjamin Jr. never had a son named Benjamin.
   Oh, by the way, in keeping in step with his brother Benjamin, the Church family indicates that Edward died in London, and left the bulk of his estate to his mistress.
   For now, I just remain delighted to be able, after all of these years, to look at an authentic likeness of a male member of the Church family.

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