William Jennys

Portrait of Nancy Stacy (1774-1844), c.1799
Oil on canvas
29.13 x 22.13 in
SKU: 12189c
Price on Request

The portraits of David Kimball and Nancy Stacy would make an exceptional addition to any collection of early American art not only because they were painted by the notable William Jennys, but also because the sitters are members of notable and influential New England families. In addition, these pendants have impeccable provenance: they have never left ownership of the decedents of the Kimball family and this is the first time they have been available for purchase. These paintings are framed to museum standards in modern 22K gold leaf American Colonial style custom mouldings.

Canvas Size: 29 1/8" x 22 1/8"
Frame Size: 34" x 27"

David Kimball (1766-1848) and Nancy Stacy Kimball (1774-1844) were members of historic Massachusetts families. David Kimball is a sixth-generation descendant of Richard Kimball (d. 1675) and Ursula Scott (d. 1659), who emigrated from Rattlasden, Suffolk County, England to Watertown MA around 1634. The family then relocated in 1637 to Ipswich, the city with which the family is now most strongly identified, when Richard was appointed to be a wheelwright.[1] Nancy likewise had early New England ancestry, descended from Simon Stacy and Elizabeth Clark, who were married in London in 1620.[2]

Nancy Stacy was the second wife of David Kimball, and the two were married in 1799. Given this, the present pendant portraits were likely completed shortly after the marriage. David had two children by his first wife Mary Morse, who died in September of 1798. David and Nancy would have nine additional children between 1801 and 1815.[3]

Most notably, the couple were parents of the Boston politician and showman Moses Kimball (1809-1895).[2][3] Moses would found the Boston Museum, an early for-profit museum and theater opened in 1841 that resembled European curiosity cabinets: the museum displayed paintings of Thomas Scully and Charles Peale alongside Chinese artwork, stuffed animals, dwarves and mermaids. Alongside these exhibits, visitors could attend the theater which held performances by gymnasts and contortionists, followed by performances of Shakespeare and Dickens.[4] This museum set the model for the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, which when founded in 1870 held a similarly diverse collection and appealed to the interests of a diverse set of visitors.[5] Moreover, some Greek antiquities from Moses Kimball's museum were eventually given to the MFA and Moses donated approximately $5,000 to the MFA's endowment upon his death.[6][7] Moses also donated a copy of Thomas Ball’s statue The Emancipation Memorial to the city of Boston. The statue currently resides in Park Square.[8]

Eliza Kimball Smith, Nancy & David’s daughter and sister to Moses, came to Wisconsin and brought these portraits with her to Appleton, Wisconsin. Eliza and her husband, Reeder Smith crossed Lake Michigan and founded Lawrence and Appleton University in 1847 and 1848, respectively (it is also worth noting that this is the same year that Wisconsin became a state). The portraits were never displayed to the public.[8] They have remained in the family and are currently owned by a descendent of David Kimball who as consigned the painting to David Barnett Gallery for sale. 

William Jennys (1774–1859), also known as J. William Jennys, is an important American primitive portrait painter who was active from about 1790 to 1810. He traveled throughout New England seeking commissions in rural areas and small towns.[9] Although the Inventory of American Painting lists more than one hundred works by William Jennys and an additional eighty ascribed to him, there is surprisingly little known about this prolific artist's life. He may have been the son, or perhaps the younger brother, of the portraitist Richard Jennys (active 1766-1801). Both artists worked in New Milford, Connecticut, beginning about 1795 and William's earliest known paintings were produced there. An advertisement which he placed in the Norwich (Connecticut) Packet in 1793, however, indicates that by then he was a practicing professional.[10]

In 1797 and 1798 Jennys worked in New York City. After 1800 he traveled through New England, moving up the Connecticut River Valley to paint in Hatfield and Deerfield, Massachusetts, around 1801 and thereafter visiting Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Newburyport, Massachusetts, and several towns in Vermont. He produced primarily waist-length portraits, and was known active through 1807.[10]

Paintings by Jennys can be found on view in several important collections of American art, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Honolulu Museum of Art, Connecticut Historical Society, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., the Rockefeller Folk Art Collection, and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.[9]

[1] Morrison, Leonard Allison and Stephen Paschall Sharples. History of the Kimball Family in America, from 1634 to 1897, Volume 1. Boston, MA: Damrell & Upham, 1897, pp. 27-28.
[2] Cummings, Charles. Memoir of Moses Kimball. Boston, MA: Press of David Clapp & Son, 1902, p. 3.
[3] Morrison and Sharples, History of the Kimball Family, 363.
[4] Levitt, Peggy. Artifacts and Allegiances: How Museums Put the Nation and the World on Display. Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2015, p. 170.
[5] Belk, Russel. Collecting in a Consumer Society. New York: Routledge, 2013, No pagination.
[6] Friedland, Sobocinski and Gazda. The Oxford Handbook of Roman Sculpture. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013, p. 48.
[7] Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Twenty-Eighth Annual Report for the year 1903. Cambridge, MA: The University Press, 1904, p. 16.
[8] Information courtesy of the family.
[9] Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, s.v. "William Jennys," (accessed 22 February 2020)
[10] "William Jennys," National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. (accessed 22 February 2020)