Saturday, May 7, 2016

Sometimes they come back to you. The interesting story of a 19th c oil portrait.

Mid 19th century oil portrait of Joseph Patterson age 27 in the collection of le château de Hopkins 

In the Summer of 2009 while surfing ebay for 19th century oil portraits I came across the portrait of Joseph Patterson, although the sitter was not identified at the time. The listing was in New York city and if memory serves me right I believe the listing price was $1,500.  or $1,600. The global financial crisis of 2008 was a bad year for antiques, items that were worth lots of money went down in value and to this day many antiques are still down in price. Although I loved the painting I did not feel comfortable spending that much for it.  

The seller listed the painting many times on ebay from the Summer of 2009 until the winter of 2010 without any luck of the painting selling. We exchanged many emails about the portrait. I first offered $1,000. for it and my last offer for $1,200. was turned down. From day one of email exchanged, the New Yorker was very rude like some people are known for above the Mason Dixon line. She thought the person in the portrait was Southern without any proof other then thats what she was told when she bought it. 

My friends have nicknamed the person in the oil painting "Ashley Wilkes" after the fictional character in Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel Gone with the Wind and the later film of the same name. 

Leslie Howard as Ashley Wilkes in the Gone With the Wind.

In January of 2010 I had decided to move from Baltimore, Maryland back to my birth town of Mobile, Alabama. Before leaving Baltimore I sold a lot of my antiques and bought a lot of antiques for my home in Alabama, In the back of my mind I could not stop thinking about the handsome portrait of the blue eyed blonde haired gentleman. I contacted the rue seller one more time. I upped my offer from $1,000. to $1,200. Plus I would ride up to New York and pick the painting up, that way the seller did not have to worry about packing it. I was still refused by the seller. 

The portrait is in it's original Victorian ornate Rococo Revival frame. 

5 years latter in January of 2015 I jus got back from my month long vacation  in France over Christmas/New Years. I'm surfing ebay for 19th century oil portraits and see a photo of the same portrait I feel in love with over 5 years ago. List not in New York city but outside of New York city. At the starting low bid of $299. without a reserve price. Wow I was amazed and worried! Did the same crazy rude woman still own this lovely painting? This time I was not letting the painting get away from me. But I had burning questions about the portrait and it's whereabouts over the last 5 years. 

First I found out the person listing the painting was a man that owned a Antiques shop specializing in antiques paintings. In careful email exchanges with him I asked where did he get the portrait and how long did he own it? He replied he bought it at a estate sale and had owned it for two years. I pieced together that the rude woman must have died and the painting was purchased at her estate sale for pennies on the dollar of what she thought it was worth.  Now next was to try and bid on the painting to own it. I was not going to let it slip thru my hands a 2th time. Biding the last 10 seconds I won the painting for $550. Have of my highest offer 5 years ago. Sometimes patience does pay off, even if it takes 5 years. 

The pieced together old label that came with the painting. 

After winning the beautiful portrait I became impatient to receive it. I won it in the middle of a big snow blizzard in New York, The painting could not be shipped off until 2 weeks after the auction was over, with me messaging the seller every day to see if he could ship it. It was held up for two weeks in New York and a week of shipping it, almost a month. It finally arrived at the château de Hopkins. I was very pleased and happy to see him after all of those years, I notice in the bottom of the box he came in old pieces of broken paper. After retrieving them and putting them together it turned to be part of a old typed label identifying the sitter as "Joseph Patterson" age 27 when the portrait was painted. I was surprised to find the label as the ebay listing did not say anything about a label. After contacting the seller again he did not know about the label. The only thing I could think about was it must have been hidden on the back of the portrait and fell out when it was being shipped to me. 

"Joseph Patterson" AKA Ashley Wilkes, decorated for Creole Christmas 2015 at le château de Hopkins. 

The key to a well painted portrait is the eyes will follow you around the room no matter where you are in a room.  

Today the portrait of "Joseph Patterson" AKA Ashley Wilkes has a high position in my home over a 1825 Federal Philadelphia pianoforte. He is very well painted with soft skin tone & hair, Salmon colored bow tie, white shirt, Ivory vest and black jacket. One hand holds the top of a gold tip walking stick. Red drapery with tassel hang on the left side of the portrait. 

I hope to one day be about to get more info on Joseph Patterson. As he looks like a interesting person. 

This is not the first time this has happen to me in the antique world. It has happen a few times when I don't get something I really want. Although some items have taken over ten years to come to me. Has something like this happen to you? If so I want to hear all about it. 


  1. That's such a great story, Andrew! And a really beautiful portrait. I assume there's no signature or date on the painting? By his dress, it looks to have been done somewhere between the 1820s and 1840s, probably on the later side of that. The quality of the piece is such that the subject must have come from a well to do family, and I wonder if he couldn't be identified. I did a little searching on the William Patterson (father of the famous "Betsy" Patterson Bonaparte) family of Baltimore this morning. There were Josephs in the family, but the dates don't seem to match up. There aren't any more scraps of that label? So interesting, whoever he is....

    1. Hi Stephilius, thanks for your comment, No signature or date on him. Believe me what I found the pieces of the label I tore the box up looking for more.

  2. Yes, Andrew, this young man wanted to come and live with you! I did an Ancestry search for his name and there are over 80 Joseph Pattersons living in American in 1850. On ( free site) the name at the bottom has two familes: Lougheed and Loughhead, both seem to be Irish in origin, some of the name live in Canada today. With that red hair and complection he does look very Irish. Marshel

    1. Hi Bama Planter, from the two names on the label and google searches I keep coming up with Tennessee as a state that has the two last names connected. Thanks for your help!