"In the Beginning, all America was Virginia."
William Byrd II
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Becoming Virginians Gallery

Virtual Tour of Becoming Virginians Gallery, Part I
Take a 360 degree tour of the Becoming Virginians Gallery, Part I.
Virtual tour of Becoming Virginians Gallery, Part II
Take a 360 degree tour of the Becoming Virginians Gallery, Part II.
William Byrd, II (1674–1744) Enter Fullscreen More information
William Byrd, II (1674–1744)
To English contemporaries William Byrd, II (1674–1744) seemed "a very polite, ingenious man" and one "of good fortune," but "very curious" because a colonial. In London Byrd faced limitations imposed by his colonial roots, yet he struggled doggedly there for unattainable goals. What social achievement he realized is suggested in this image. Adding that "he knows the world perfectly well and thinks himself a citizen of it," Byrd described himself as neither a colonial nor an Englishman, but a man lost between two worlds. The ship in the painting points to the dilemma. By 1724, however, Byrd was approaching a new maturity: he would soon accept his fate—as much economic as social—as a prominent Virginian able to live "in great luxury" in a provincial setting. Byrd commissioned this portrait as a gift to his close friend Charles Boyle, Earl of Orrery. (VHS accession number: 1973.6)
Bacon's Epitaph Enter Fullscreen More information
Bacon's Epitaph
"Bacon's Epitaph, made by his Man" is called the first American poem, and eulogizes Nathaniel Bacon, leader of Bacon's Rebellion in 1675–76. Some historians interpret the rebellion as a proto-democratic movement against Governor Berkeley's autocratic regime. Others see it as merely a pretext to seize Indian land. (VHS call number: Mss2 C8295 a 1)
Céloron plate Enter Fullscreen More information
Céloron plate
This lead plaque was placed at the junction of the Kanawha and Ohio Rivers in 1749 by Captain Pierre Joseph Céloron de Blainville. Five other plates were laid along other tributaries of the Ohio River to assert France's claims to all the lands watered by those rivers. Under its 1609 charter, Virginia claimed those lands, too. News of the lead plates reached Williamsburg and young George Washington was sent west to expel the French. This is the only plaque that survives intact. (VHS accession number: 1849.1)
Taufschein Enter Fullscreen More information
Taufschein
Taufschein or Lutheran baptismal certificate of Jacob Lantz, born in Shenandoah County in 1814, by the so-called Stoney Creek artist. Shenandoah County was the heartland of German settlement in the Shenandoah Valley. The certificate is printed in German. (VHS accession number: 1997.83)
Grymes children Enter Fullscreen More information
Grymes children
This group portrait is one of the most interesting and appealing images to survive from colonial America. It speaks loudly and clearly about gentry children and family in colonial Virginia. It is evidence that at early ages children were instructed in manners, dressed as genteel adults, and so groomed to perpetuate family status in a highly structured society. From the evidence of this painting, gentry society in England and Virginia were in fact more similar than we might be inclined to believe. At the least, that was the goal of Virginia parents. Whoever the artist, probably the young John Hesselius, he was bold and inventive. To fit four figures in this composition, he devised an imaginary landscape pieced together with the types of imagery found in the backgrounds of English portrait prints. The result is more charming that awkward, an image of an English life-style. As such, the painting no doubt satisfied its Middlesex County patrons. (VHS accession number: 1893.3)
Henry Fitzhugh (1614–1664) Enter Fullscreen More information
Henry Fitzhugh (1614–1664)
This portrait of Henry Fitzhugh (1614–1664) was copied in oils by John Hesselius in 1751. Like the portrait of the Virginia dynasty founder William Fitzhugh, this painting of William's father, the last Fitzhugh ancestor to live his entire life in England, is apparently faithfully copied from a lost original; it bears none of the mannerisms of John Hesselius' own, developing style. The two copies were commissioned by William Fitzhugh's second son, Captain Henry Fitzhugh, who did not inherit the originals, or Captain Henry's son, Colonel Henry Fitzhugh, for the paintings hung in their home Bedford through most of the nineteenth century. They are of great importance because so few paintings survive from seventeenth-century Virginia. The original portrait from which this canvas was copied must have been painted in England and carried to the colony by the son, for the sitter never set foot in Virginia. That he sat for a painter is evidence enough that he was local gentry. (VHS accession number: 1972.19)
John Murray, fourth Earl of Dunmore Enter Fullscreen More information
John Murray, fourth Earl of Dunmore
John Murray, fourth Earl of Dunmore (1732–1809), was Virginia's last royal governor. He became a hero among Virginians for walking on foot and carrying his own pack during the Indian war that bore his name. Less than two years later, however, these same Virginians would hate him above all others for promising freedom to slaves who would fight for the king against the Continental Congress. (VHS accession number: 1948.76)
Lucy Randolph Burwell Enter Fullscreen More information
Lucy Randolph Burwell
Lucy Randolph Burwell (c. 1744–1802) belonged to one of the wealthiest families and so posed in an elegant gown and headdress of the latest style. She plays a string instrument but does so idly, a fashionable accomplishment rather than a passion. Virginia's ruling elite had intermarried for a century, and Lucy Randolph maintained this tradition by marrying Lewis Burwell of Kengsmill plantation in James City County when she was twenty. The portrait was painted c. 1773, probably by Matthew Pratt. (VHS accession number: 1951.35)
Rebecca Bonum Eskridge Enter Fullscreen More information
Rebecca Bonum Eskridge
Rebecca Bonum Eskridge (d. 1715) was a member of the gentry class, but not until well into the 1700s was that class fully self-confident, exuberant, or ostentatious. There is a tentativeness in her eyes that reflects the harsh world of the 1600s—its sudden and often early death, economic fluctuations, and civil unrest. She knew life was too brief to be wasted, and she was determined to enjoy the comforts conferred by a good marriage—to George Eskridge of Westmoreland County—for whom George Washington was named. The artist is unknown. (VHS accession number: 1914.7)
Cast iron fireback Enter Fullscreen More information
Cast iron fireback
This fireback is a rare touchstone of the career of a remarkable man, Alexander Spotswood (1676–1740), by title lieutenant-governor, but in reality governor of Virginia from 1710 to 1722. He developed the iron industry in Virginia, he made the state more ethnically diverse, and he led exploration and settlement of the Rappahannock and Shenandoah Valleys. This cast iron fireback would have been placed at the back of a fireplace to reflect the heat outward. This one shows only a little exposure to fire. Perhaps because of its elegance, it was mainly for show. Dolphins, fleur-de-lis, Virginia roses, flowering dogwood, and hickory surround a bust portrait of a woman wearing a crown. This motif appeared on the seal of the Virginia Company and later on several versions of the seal of the royal colony of Virginia. This fireback, made at either Spotswood's Massaponax Furnace or Tubal Furnace, was in a fireplace at Spotswood's Germanna mansion which burned in 1750 and collapsed in ruins. In 1984 the fireback was uncovered intact under piles of stone and rubble. (VHS accession number: 1995.74)
Virtual Tour of Becoming Virginians Gallery, Part I
Virtual Tour of Becoming Virginians Gallery, Part I
Virtual tour of Becoming Virginians Gallery, Part II
Virtual tour of Becoming Virginians Gallery, Part II
William Byrd, II (1674–1744)
William Byrd, II (1674–1744)
Bacon's Epitaph
Bacon's Epitaph
Céloron plate
Céloron plate
Taufschein
Taufschein
Grymes children
Grymes children
Henry Fitzhugh (1614–1664)
Henry Fitzhugh (1614–1664)
John Murray, fourth Earl of Dunmore
John Murray, fourth Earl of Dunmore
Lucy Randolph Burwell
Lucy Randolph Burwell
Rebecca Bonum Eskridge
Rebecca Bonum Eskridge
Cast iron fireback
Cast iron fireback