Peyton Randolph of Wilton, c. 1773
Named for an uncle who as speaker of the House of Burgesses had become one of the most beloved and accomplished public figures in the colony, Peyton Randolph of Wilton (early 1750s–1784) faced great expectations. Though he perceived himself as a member of the English nobility, and so recorded here, this Wilton heir nonetheless became an ardent patriot, rejecting British colonial policy of the 1760s and 1770s that he felt threatened his social status. It was presumably Randolph's impassioned political stance that caused his loyalist brother-in-law "English Lewis" Burwell to knife him at the dinner table in 1775. Both survived the altercation.
The artist Matthew Pratt, having lived and exhibited in London for two and a half years in the 1760s, had been exposed to and knew well the latest styles and devices of such masters of English portraiture as Sir Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough. Lessons learned in London were put to good use in Virginia. Here, the landscape setting with a sheltering tree and a vast terrain that opens downward, the angled, standing pose, and even the walking stick are components of a type of composition fashionable in London studios in the 1760s.