Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

Painters and Painting

Portrait of a Woman, Gustavus Hesselius (1751)

An eighteenth century style portait created by Gustavus Hesselius depicting a woman.

Gustavus Hesselius painted this portrait of an unidentified woman in 1751. (Philadelphia Museum of Art)

Philadelphia Museum of Art

This is one of the many portraits by Gustavus Hesselius, a Swedish-born artist who settled in Philadelphia around 1735. Hesselius’s most famous work portrayed the Lenape chiefs Lapowinsa and Tishochan. This portrait of an unidentified woman is typical of portraits commissioned during the colonial period to document attributes such as social standing and wealth. In this case, the book in the subject’s hands represents religious devotion. It reads: “O Lord I give / thee praise / for health / strength / length of / days my Age / Being Seventy- / two years and / five days April / the 25 : 1751.”

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