Skip to main content Smithsonian Institution

Catalog Data

Artist:
Ole Peter Hansen Balling, 13 Apr 1823 - 1 May 1906  Search this
Sitter:
John Brown, 9 May 1800 - 2 Dec 1859  Search this
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
Stretcher: 76.5 x 64.5 x 3.8cm (30 1/8 x 25 3/8 x 1 1/2")
Frame: 109.2 x 96.5 x 12.7cm (43 x 38 x 5")
Type:
Painting
Date:
1872
Exhibition Label:
Born Torrington, Connecticut
Amid the festering hostilities between the North and the South in the 1850s, John Brown’s zealous opposition to slavery grew. In 1857, he began making plans for the 1859 raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, an event that would make him both infamous and immortal. The scheme to commandeer firearms with which to arm a slave rebellion failed, and Brown was captured, tried, and hanged. His insurrection found favor among many Northern abolitionists, but the South viewed Brown as a sign that they must either break their allegiance to the Union or be destroyed by an increasingly radical North. Showing Brown wrapped in an army blanket, this portrait is thought to be based on a likeness published in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper in 1859. Through the dark shadows that dominate the painting’s lower right, it is possible to discern manacles binding Brown’s wrists.
Provenance:
James Sutton, New York and Tacoma; estate sold at auction, purchased by Ferry Museum [predecessor of Tacoma Historical Museum, Washington State Historical Society], Tacoma; purchased 1974 NPG
Topic:
Personal Attribute\Facial Hair\Mustache  Search this
Personal Attribute\Facial Hair\Beard  Search this
John Brown: Male  Search this
John Brown: Society and Social Change\Reformer\Abolitionist  Search this
Portrait  Search this
Credit Line:
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Object number:
NPG.74.2
See more items in:
National Portrait Gallery Collection
Exhibition:
American Origins
On View:
NPG, East Gallery 110c
Data Source:
National Portrait Gallery
GUID:
http://n2t.net/ark:/65665/sm4f6095347-e28a-4eaa-a71e-5cf674c7a33e
EDAN-URL:
edanmdm:npg_NPG.74.2