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Six Portraits by Jonathan Treadwell Donated to The Portsmouth Historical Society


On June 4, 2015 Portsmouth Historical Society advised Resource Library that one of the most important surviving collections of folk portraits from northern New England has been donated anonymously to the Society in honor of Jean E. & Joseph G. Sawtelle.  "Joe and Jean Sawtelle wanted these paintings to be together and to be in Portsmouth. They are coming home. This is the biggest gift the historical society has received in many years and they are incredibly valuable, not just for our collection, but for the maritime story they tell about Portsmouth and its shipbuilding past. We are so grateful to the donor," said Maryellen Burke, Executive Director, The Portsmouth Historical Society. As of June, 2015 the portraits are on display at the John Paul Jones House Museum, located at 43 Middle Street, Portsmouth.  "The gift was given in honor of Jean E. & Joseph G. Sawtelle, who brought them back home and wanted them to stay here." 

The six portraits of the Badger family were likely painted by Jonathan Treadwell, when he visited Portsmouth in 1847 or 1848. During that time, Treadwell had advertised in the local papers that he was available to paint portraits in his studio at 28 Market Street. The portraits may have been commissioned as a memorial after the death of George W. Badger in 1847 while on business in New Orleans. Treadwell, intriguingly, noted in one of his ads, "A likeness may be taken after death if application is taken immediately." Such may have been the case after the unfortunate demise of the young George Badger.  Consulting Curator of The John Paul Jones House Museum, Gerald W.R. Ward, notes, "The Badger family portraits are a rare constellation of works that are significant as both works of art and documents of history. Painted in a realistic, bold manner by Jonathan Treadwell, the family members gaze out at us directly, each instantly recognizable as an individual. The portraits, probably commissioned at a somber time in the family's history, are tangible and powerful reminders of the importance of images as the bearers of family memory and community traditions."


About the Artist

Jonathan Treadwell is a relatively little-known itinerant artist of the mid nineteenth century.  Born in Maine, he was probably trained by his first cousin, Charles Augustus Treadwell of Boston. In the 1840s, he divided his time between Portland, Maine, and Portsmouth.  He later lived in a variety of locations in Maine and New Hampshire, and eventually moved to Pennsylvania.  As Thomas Hardiman, Keeper of the Portsmouth Athenaeum, noted, Treadwell "painted in a flat perspective, with little shading or modeling in the faces, placing [his work] firmly in the genre of folk art."  Treadwell's half-length portraits feature realistic depictions of the sitters and their clothing, head coverings, and jewelry in the manner of many mid-nineteenth-century images.



About the Badger Family

Capt. Samuel Badger (1794-1857) was a master ship builder who was trained by his uncle William in the family shipyard on Badger's Island in the Piscataqua River.  Samuel later established his own shipyard at Kittery Foreside, where he built forty-five vessels, including the ship William Penn (1847), the clippers Fleetwood (1852) and Granite State (1854), and the 1,650-ton half-clipper Cathedral.  Samuel married Apphia Maria Ferland (1798-1848) in 1817, and the couple had five children who lived to adulthood. Ann Maria (Badger) Neal (1818-1903), the family's eldest daughter, married Portsmouth shipwright and chandler John Neal before these portraits were painted.  Samuel A. Badger (1822-1907) was a prominent bookseller and stationer in Portsmouth.  George W. Badger (1825-1847) followed the sea, becoming master of the bark Apphia Maria, built by his father in 1846. George's death of yellow fever in New Orleans in August 1847 probably inspired this group of portraits, since several members of the family are depicted in mourning.  Apphia Maria Badger (1826-1901) married Eben W. Ball on July 17, 1848, and moved to Boston.



About the John Paul Jones House Museum

The house, now known as the John Paul Jones House, was built about 1758 for Capt. Gregory Purcell and his wife Sarah. John Paul Jones, colonial America's first sea warrior, was a tenant of the widow Purcell in 1777 and again in 1781, while he supervised the building of the Navy's ship America nearby. Though he loved Portsmouth, he left New Hampshire in 1782, never to return. His house is now the museum of Portsmouth men, women and children, where their stories live.

The John Paul Jones House is located at 43 Middle Street in Portsmouth, at the corner of Middle and State Streets. The House is a pleasant walk from Market Square, the heart of historic Portsmouth.  For hours and fees, please see the Society's website. 


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