John Matthews

Artist: attributed to Richard Cosway
Date: before 1821

The sitter in this miniature has been identified as Governor Matthews, native of South Carolina. He studied law in London at the Middle Temple and upon his return to Carolina was admitted to the Bar in 1766. He was active in the First and Second Provincial Congresses, served as speaker of the General Assembly in 1776 and of the House of Representatives in 1778. He represented South Carolina in the Continental Congress 1778-1782. In 1782 he was elected Governor and spent most of his energy negotiating with the British. From 1784—1797 he served as chancellor and then judge of the court of equity. Since Matthews never returned to England, there is some doubt about the sitter's correct identity.

Despite clear links with Cosway's style, especially his late work, questions have been raised about the attribution. The rather moody expression of the sitter and the dark coloring of his jacket are more typical of Cosway's work after 1800. However, the handling of the medium lacks Cosway's usual crispness.


This text is adapted from Martha Severens "The Miniature Portrait Collection of the Carolina Art Association" published by the Carolina Art Association, 1984

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