The Kent-Delord House Museum is home to an astonishing collection of late 18 th and early 19 th century portraiture along with many other works of art. Among the artists included in our collection are: John Singleton Copley, William Johnston, Abraham G.D. Tuthill, Jared Flagg, Henry Inman, John Wesley Jarvis, Ezra Ames, Robert Fulton, and Samuel F.B. Morse. We even have a 1640 Renaissance painting attributed to the Frans Francken School! The saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words! Well, we’ll shorten the number of words, and tell you the amazing stories about the people and history of some of the paintings that are hanging on the walls in the Kent-Delord House Museum. Let’s start with the large portrait located in the dining room. This picture is quite striking because of its size and the unusual subjects in the painting.
Mehitabel Nott Webb Deane
Mehitabel Nott was born in Whethersfield, CT in 1732. Her father, Gershom Nott, was a sea captain. At age 17, she married Joseph Webb, Sr., a successful Whetersfield merchant who had ships trading in the West Indies. In 1752, he built a large house which stands today as a museum. After 12 short years of marriage and at the age of 34, Joseph Webb died, leaving behind three sons and three daughters. Mehitabel, sought a legal adviser to help navigate the family finances and chose Silas Deane, a young lawyer, new in town, who had just passed his bar exam. The son of a Groton blacksmith, Deane had gone to Yale and studied law in Hartford. He married Mehitabel two years after Webb’s death and moved into the Webb house. They had a son, Jesse, a year later. With the growing family, Deane contracted to have a larger house built next to the Webb house. Sadly, Mehitabel died before the house was finished. She left behind seven children, the oldest-Joseph Webb, Jr. was 18, the youngest-Silas, was 3 years old.
William Johnston, Itinerant Artist
The portrait of Mehitabel was painted in 1766 by William Johnston. He was the first painter to spend any significant amount of time in Connecticut. Johnston was born in Boston and became lifelong friends with another Bostonian painter, John Singleton Copley. Johnston actually began his career as a musician, serving as organist at Boston's Christ Church from 1750 to 1753, before he decided to become a painter. He then traveled to New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut before returning to Boston where he married a widow with two children. By 1770, he had moved to Barbados , continuing to find work as a portraitist and receiving seventy-five pounds a year to play the organ. His last known correspondence was a letter to Copley asking him to paint a portrait of his sister. He died in Bridgetown, Barbados in early 1772. Below are some of his other works.