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Portrait of Edmund Dickinson (d. 1778)
Probably Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1770s
Watercolor on ivory. Sight, 5 1/2 x 5 1/16 inches
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation; acquired with funds donated by Mr. and Mrs. Harold B. Gill, Jr.
Provenance: Wm. R. Smart and Althea Roselina Carter; Miss Althea Smart and her late brother, R. Henry Smart
Courtesy of Colonial Williamsburg Foundation

When Edmund Dickinson left Williamsburg in 1776 to fight in the American Revolution, he left behind an established cabinet shop in Virginia’s fashionable colonial capital. Dickinson began his training by 1764 with cabinetmaker Anthony Hay (active 1751–1766) and in 1771 took over as master of the same shop. According to records, Dickinson ran a successful business, counting among his patrons Thomas Jefferson. In the inventory taken after Dickinson’s death, a copy of “Chippendales Designs” was listed. The citation of Thomas Chippendale’s influential pattern book is one of the few documented references to its use in America and underscores the social and stylistic connections between Williamsburg and England. See Wallace B. Gusler, Furniture of Williamsburg and Eastern Virginia, 1710–1790 (1979).

Handwritten notes associated with the miniature state, in part, “Major Edmund Dickinson, Killed in the Battle of Monmouth on June 25, 1778 was my father’s great uncle and for whom he was named. Have old newspaper clipping and 2 pictures of him, Portrait [in hall?] and [illeg.]”; the second reference may refer to the miniature pictured here.

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