Portrait of Tacy Nixon, Bucks County

Portrait of Tacy Nixon, Bucks County

Circa 1800
United States
Oil on Panel
15” x 12”

Tacy Shoemaker (neé Nixon) (1780-1872) was born in Milford, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She is the subject of at least two portraits—this, and another painted about fifteen years later, which is in the American Art collection of the Huntington Library in San Marino, California. (The Huntington portrait is attributed to Charles Wilson Peale.)

Our painting shows Tacy in the first blush of womanhood, and might have been made on the eve of her first marriage—a marriage that lasted only seven months before she was left bereaved by the death of her young husband.

Here, however, she is still optimistic and confident. The young Tacy wears a fashionable Empire dress and a veil over her shoulders trimmed with silk ribbon, and she sits upright in an armchair by a window with a verdant countryside leading into the distance. The composition and the beguiling ambiguity of the sitter’s expression bring to mind Italian late-Renaissance portraiture. And, indeed, it is reasonable to assume that the artist might have received formative training in a European studio or academy. The subtle shading, vigorous impasto highlights on the veil’s trim, and the expressive sentience of the sitter, give this portrait a rare and lovely appeal.

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