Philadelphia Museum of Art - Collections Object : Portrait of Colonel Jonathan Williams (1750-1815)

Portrait of Colonel Jonathan Williams (1750-1815)

Thomas Sully, American (born England), 1783 - 1872

Made in United States, North and Central America


Oil on canvas

6 feet 9 inches × 58 inches (205.7 × 147.3 cm)

Curatorial Department:
American Art

* Gallery 107, American Art, first floor

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Alexander Biddle, 1964

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This richly painted, atmospheric portrait shows Colonel Jonathan Williams at ease, after his retirement from the United States Army. Sully captures his distinctive features and bright blue eyes, which look directly at the viewer. In the distance the artist has included a view of Fort Williams, one of several fortifications the colonel designed and built to defend New York harbor during the War of 1812.

Williams was the great-nephew of Benjamin Franklin and served as his private secretary in Paris while studying military engineering. Multifaceted, his occupations included merchant and judge before President Jefferson appointed him chief engineer of the army and first superintendent of West Point in 1801.

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