Artist: James Sharples (ca. 1751–1811)
Date: ca. 1796
Medium: Pastel on light gray wove paper
Dimensions: 9 3/8 x 7 3/8 in. (23.8 x 18.7 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Miss Josephine L. Stevens, 1908
Accession Number: 08.144
The popularity of profile portraits, which ultimately derived from classical medallions honoring famous men of the republics of Greece and Rome, burgeoned during America’s Federal period. The English painter and pastelist James Sharples established a career in America in 1794 by asking local and national politicians to sit for profiles and then enticing them into commissioning one or more copies of the completed portraits. Perhaps with some exceptions, Sharples employed a physiognotrace to record an exact profile and then retained the original portrait for his personal collection, a library of images that he could copy for sale over and over again. Sharples’s profile of the diplomat Albert Gallatin is perhaps the earliest likeness of a man who would be portrayed many times during the course of his long and prestigious career; when he sat for Sharples in about 1796, Gallatin was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, where he remained for three terms.