James Gordon, 1750
Posed proudly and modeling a handsome wig that signified his new wealth, merchant James Gordon (1714–1768) clearly was pleased to have attained in Virginia the financial success that had eluded his family in northern Ireland. This image is a provincial creation, a combination of a contemporary pose with a landscape backdrop from an earlier tradition.
A deeply religious man, Gordon primarily invested his wealth in land, slaves, the goods in his stores, a sloop, and a large library of 391 books.
John Hesselius of Philadelphia and later Maryland developed his painting technique under the strong influence of the established New England painter Robert Feke (ca. 1707–1751), who created stunning imagery in this same, peculiar style. Paintings like this example are so close to the work of Feke, who was active in Philadelphia, that Hesselius clearly learned either from Feke's instruction or Feke's canvases and may have traveled south with him.