Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Portrait of William Duguid

Prince Demah Barnes
Made in Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Oil on canvas
Canvas: 20 3/4 × 15 3/4 × 1 1/8 in. (52.7 × 40 × 2.9 cm) Framed: 22 1/2 × 17 1/2 × 1 1/2 in. (57.2 × 44.5 × 3.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Friends of the American Wing Fund, 2010
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 747
William Duguid, a Scottish immigrant textile importer based in Boston, is the subject of this engaging portrait. In 1773 he sat for artist Prince Demah Barnes, an enslaved African owned by merchant Henry Barnes. Impressed with his talent, Barnes took Prince to London in 1771, where he studied briefly with Robert Edge Pine. Prince’s story is extraordinary—he is the only known enslaved artist working in colonial America whose paintings have survived. To date, three portraits have been identified. When his Loyalist owners fled to England in 1775, Prince remained in Boston, and discarded his slave surname, identifying himself as "Prince Demah, limner" and a "free Negro." He enlisted in the Massachusetts militia in 1777 to fight against the British, but unfortunately died of an unknown illness the following year.
Inscription: inscribed in ink on the wood: WD AEtatis sui 26 1773/ Prince Demah Barnes Sculpt--- (crossed out) Pinxit Febry (sic) 1773
The seller of the painting, Gerald E. Roy, purchased it in 1998 from Foster Smith Boothby. A copy of that bill of sale was sent with the painting. The painting descended in the Duguid/Smith/Boothby family to Foster Smith Boothby as follows: William Duguid (1747-?) the sitter to his daughter Mary Duguid (Smith) (1772-1855) to her son Edward T. Smith (1807-1885) to his son Edward H. F. Smith (1844-ca. 1910) to his daughter Ethyl H. Smith (Boothby) (1881-1959) to her son Foster Smith Boothby (1916-2004). William Duguid was born in Scotland, possibly Aberdeen. He was in Boston, MA by 1770, when advertisements for his imported goods business appear in Boston newspapers. His daughter Mary was born in Boston in 1772; she married Col. John Tyng Smith in Boston in 1798, and they moved to Gorham, Maine, where the family continued to live (and the painting remained) until Foster Smith Boothby moved to Boyleston, MA in the 1950s.
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