Catalog of the Fine Arts Collection
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Attributed to Joseph Alexander Ames (1816-1872)
Born to a poor farming family in 1782 in Salisbury, New Hampshire, a small town north of Concord, Daniel Webster benefited from his parents' commitment to education. He attended Dartmouth College, graduating with highest honors, and later became one of America's most influential political leaders, a senator, and secretary of state. When the New Hampshire government attempted to convert Dartmouth into a state-run institution in 1816-18, Webster brought his legendary oratorical skills to bear in defending the school's autonomy before the federal Supreme Court and won, ensuring the Dartmouth's independence to the present day.
This portrait is either by the Boston portraitist Joseph Alexander Ames, one of a series that the artist produced after Webster's death in 1852, or else is a reproduction of Ames' work. It is a reduced version of a widely admired 1853 commission that Ames received from one of Webster's closest friends, Boston merchant Peter Harvey. Webster is shown as a statesman in the prime of his life, with the characteristic piercing expression for which he was known. The portrait became accepted as Webster's authoritative likeness, and was distributed through reproductive engraving.