Sat, Oct 6, 2018 10:00AM EDT
Patrick Henry Davenport (American, Kentucky, 1803-1890). Oil on canvas, framed. A pair of portraits of Nimrod Martin and his wife Elizabeth Graddy Martin, who lived in the former home of celebrated Kentuckian Jack Jouett; 29.5 x 25 in. (sight of each), 37.5 x 33 in. (frame of each).
Nimrod Martin (1796-1876) was a native of Kentucky whose origins are unclear. As an officer of the Kentucky militia he served in the War of 1812 after which he settled in Woodford County. Notices in the Mississippi State Gazette from October 1818 indicate he had trading interests in Natchez, a common occurrence for successful Kentucky farmers at the time. Following his marriage to Elizabeth Graddy Withers in 1831 he and his wife were resident at the former home of Jack Jouett on Craig’s Creek Road near Versailles. His farming and trade interests shifted to Indiana not long afterwards as reported in the Salem, Indiana Annotator of News Politics, January, 1831. As a staunch supporter of Henry Clay, Martin was active in Whig political circles, serving as a delegate to at least one national convention and engaging in a spirited correspondence on the virtues of his idol with a Mr. Shinn of Clarksburg, Virginia, published in the Richmond Whig, June 28, 1844. After Elizabeth’s death in 1855 he married Nancy Branham and moved to Scott County. In old age he returned to Woodford County and was cared for by his children, who buried him in the Versailles Cemetery by his first wife.
Elizabeth Graddy Martin (1797-1855) was the daughter of the legendary pioneer Jesse Graddy of “Homestead” a stone house on McCracken’s Mill, Woodford County. Her early life has a certain peculiar quality. She was married to a Mr. Charles Withers in 1815 and moved to Louisville. When he died in 1830 she was excluded from his will, as he left all property to their daughter and his siblings with no mention for her provision whatsoever, perhaps an indication that it was not a happy union. Quite soon after she married Nimrod Martin who took her well endowed daughter into his home and gave her his name. Elizabeth’s gravestone in the Versailles Cemetery gives no evidence of her previous alliance.
Costume and pose suggest that these portraits were painted soon after their marriage in 1831. As pendants they are very striking, their visual connection strengthened by the positioning of the books in their hands. Both reach out towards the other, his book open and her book closed, his perhaps an active account book, hers a passive devotional. Attributed to Patrick Henry Davenport, they are rare works whose semiotics imply a certain mystery even as they confirm an obvious prosperity.
Garrett Glenn Clift, Remember the Raisin!, Kentucky Historical Society, 1961.
William E. Railey, History of Woodford County, Frankfort, Kentucky, 1938.
This catalog entry was written by Estill Curtis Pennington, of Paris, Kentucky. Pennington is the author of Lessons in Likeness: the portrait painter in Kentucky and the Ohio River Valley, 1800-1920, and is currently compiling a catalog raisonné of the works of Matthew Harris Jouett.
Provenance: Property from the Americana Collection of Dr. Dale and Ann Knight Gutman, Cincinnati, Ohio
Purchased from Clifton Anderson Antiques, Lexington, Kentucky