Staigg, Richard Morrell - portrait of Colonel William Parsons Winchester

This unsigned miniature portrait of Colonel William Winchester has been attributed to Richard Morrell Staigg (1817-1881). Staigg was born in Leeds, England and arrived in the United States in 1831. He lived in Boston between 1841 and 1852 when this portrait was painted. While there he was in demand by a distinguished clientele. One of his best known works is a miniature of Daniel Webster.

In discussing Staigg's work, Johnson comments "Staigg's mature palette is a medley of luminous pastel hues for the flesh and rich, deep tones in the clothing and background. His miniatures have the richness of small oil paintings."

The sitter, Colonel William Parsons Winchester (9 Nov 1801 - 6 Aug 1850) was born in Boston and was the son of a wealthy merchant Edmund Winchester. In the 1850 census William was living in Boston with his wife Eliza aged 46 and his children Emily aged 17, Ellen 15, Thomas Bradlee 13, and six servants, including two waiters and two coachmen. Colonel William P Winchester disclosed real estate assets of $48,500, but some sources suggest his total worth was upwards of $500,000 and he was one of the wealthiest men in Boston. Unfortunately, he died of typhoid shortly after the census was taken.

He was a third cousin of Oliver Winchester (1810-1880) who manufactured and marketed the Winchester repeating rifle. There is much more about Colonel William Winchester at Town of Winchester

Colonel Winchester agreed that his name could be used for the town now known as Winchester, Massachusetts and in recognition of this he donated $3000 to the town for the erection of a civic building or other municipal use. However, his premature death meant he never visited the town.

Winchester town records note that in 1900 his son, Thomas Bradlee Winchester gifted to the town a posthumous oil portrait of his father, painted by Albert Gallatin Hoyt (1809-1856).

At the time of the gift in 1900, the oil portrait was said to have been painted from memory, presumably because the existence of this miniature had been forgotten and the artist himself had died many years previously. However, it seems much more likely the miniature was painted from life and later became the source for the large oil portrait, which can be seen can be seen here by very kind permission of the Trustees who own the oil portrait.

As can be seen there is little doubt they both are of the same person. The oil is also displayed at the town website
One interesting point in comparing these two portraits, is that without separate visual cues, it is not possible to tell their relative sizes. The pupil to pupil distance on the miniature is approximately 1cm and for the oil it is estimated to be 6.5cm.

There are precedents for miniature portraits being used as sources for posthumous oil portraits. Another example is the two portraits of Christopher Colombus Baldwin (1800-1835) held by the American Antiquarian Society. The first is a miniature painted by Sarah Goodridge in 1835 which was later used as the source for the second, a large oil portrait commissioned by the Society from Chester Harding in 1836, the year following Baldwin's death. (For these portraits see "Portraits in the Collection of the American Antiquarian Society" by Lauren B Hewes.) 1199


Anonymous said... name is Richard STAIGG Philbrick. I found your site while looking for information about Richard Staigg. I just came into possession of a pencil drawing of Richard Staigg's that has been in the family since who knows when? One of my brothers has an oil painting of his as well.

Obviously he was a big thing in the family since my Dad and his father were James Staiggs. My uncle was also a Richard Staigg. Since I never had children I urged my brother, who has the oil, to name his last child Alexandra Staigg...keeping the name alive.

The Philbrick family, of which Richard Staigg married into, arrived in Watertown, Massachusetts, in 1633, and history is a big part of our mythology.

Out of curiosity, though, do Richard Staigg's paintings command good prices? I certainly don't intend on selling what I have, Alexandra Staigg will have it when I'm gone, but I've always wondered, and searching the web gives me no clue.

Richard Staigg Philbric
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA

Don Shelton said...

Hi Richard,
As you have found very few of his paintings appear on the Internet. The value would be influenced a lot by who the sitter is, and whether the painting is a miniature, large oil, sketch etc. I do not know about large oils or sketches, but would think a miniature would start around $2000 to $3000 and above that would depend on whether it was an important named sitter, or a pretty lady! I hope that helps.

Joan Griffin said...

Hello, Don,
I have a miniature portrait of my great-great-grandfather, sea captain Ayrault Wanton Dennis, of Newport, RI, that I believe was painted by Richard Morrell Staigg. It may be the one listed as on exhibit in Newport in 1890 (Early American Portrait Painter, by Bolton 1921).

The two gentlemen were contemporaries in Newport, and Dennis and a George Staigg, perhaps Richard's brother, sailed together from Newport to San Francisco in 1850 to take part in the Gold Rush.

It has been passed down through the generations to me. What is the best way to authenticate such a painting?

Don Shelton said...

Hi Joan,
If you click on my profile to get my email address, and then send me an image, I am happy to make some preliminary comments for you.