Ralph Earl (American, Worcester County, Massachusetts 1751–1801 Bolton, Connecticut)
Oil on canvas
91 1/4 x 56 in. (231.8 x 142.2 cm)
Bequest of George Willett Van Nest, 1916
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 753
The affluent merchant Marinus Willett (1740–1830) was a New York leader of the Sons of Liberty and a political radical who fought valiantly during the Revolution. Here, Willett wears his regimental uniform and the sword (17.87.3) that was presented to him by Congress in honor of his actions against the British at Fort Stanwix, in upstate New York, in 1777. The presence of three American Indians alludes to Willett’s role in negotiating a 1790 treaty with the Muscogee (Creek) tribe. Willett successfully balanced his military and political careers, culminating in his appointment as mayor of New York City in 1807.
probably the sitter, died 1830; his wife, Mrs. Marinus Willett, New York, by 1838–died 1867; her grandnephew, George Willett Van Nest, New York, by 1906–died 1916