Portrait of Mrs. Nathaniel (Sally Sayward) Barrell (1738-1805)

Collection Type

  • Art






Oil portrait of Sally Sayward Barrell; Three-quarter length view of young woman in formal pose wearing an elaborately ruffled blue silk dress with lace collar and cuffs; flower on bracelet at front; pearl necklace; classical urn and drapery background; original gilt and carved wood frame with leafy scrolled motif.


Descriptive Terms

paintings (visual works)
oil paint (paint)


In 1761, Jonathan Sayward commissioned Joseph Blackburn, then residing in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to paint a portrait of his daughter Sally. The English-trained Blackburn had worked in Bermuda and Boston before moving to Portsmouth in 1758 where he remained for five years before returning to England. Like most portrait artists in the colonies, Blackburn moved often. Exhausting the pool of available subjects in one town, artists moved on in search of new clients. Blackburn's invoice to Sayward survives and indicates that his fee for the portrait was ten guineas, approximately the cost of a very expensive piece of case furniture.
Sally was the Saywards' only child. At the time of her portrait, the twenty-three-year-old and her two-year-old daughter were living with her parents while her husband, merchant Nathaniel Barrell, was in the midst of a three-year business trip to England. The painting shows a typically idealized image of eighteenth-century womanhood, with Mrs. Barrell loosely holding a basket of roses over one arm and a rose bud in the other hand.
A few years after this portrait was painted, Sally's husband Nathaniel Barrell broke with his father-in-law over religious differences and refused to allow his children to see their grandfather. The rift lasted for seventeen years, during which time this portrait, hanging in the Sayward's parlor, must have served as a poignant reminder of family troubles.

Associated Person

Barrell, Sarah "Sally" Sayward, 1738-1805


Blackburn, Joseph, ca. 1730-ca. 1778 (Maker)


50 1/2 x 40 1/2 (HxW) (inches)

Credit Line

Gift of the heirs of Elizabeth Cheever Wheeler

Accession Number



New Hampshire (United States)
Maine (United States)
Portsmouth (Rockingham county, New Hampshire)