Bowdoin College Museum of Art

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Gilbert Stuart (North Kingstown, Rhode Island, 1755 - 1828, Boston, Massachusetts)


Portrait of James Bowdoin III

Creation Date

ca. 1806-1812


early 19th century


29 7/8 in. x 24 3/4 in. (75.88 cm x 62.87 cm)



Creation Place

North America, United States

Medium and Support

oil on canvas

Credit Line

Bequest of Mrs. Sarah Bowdoin Dearborn


Public Domain

Accession Number

The son of the second governor of Massachusetts, James Bowdoin III also became involved in politics and served in the Massachusetts state legislature. Increasingly interested in education, he endowed Bowdoin College in honor of his father. Thomas Jefferson appointed Bowdoin Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of Spain in 1804, prompting him to commission this portrait from Gilbert Stuart, together with likenesses of his wife and the President and Secretary of State. Due to poor health and the complex relationship between France and Spain under Napoleon, Bowdoin conducted his diplomatic affairs from Paris. Inspired by his travels through Europe as a young man and by his exposure to the newly established museums of the French capital, including the Louvre, Bowdoin collected books, paintings, and drawings. These he bequeathed, together with his mineral collection and scientific equipment, to Bowdoin College upon his death in 1811.

Keywords: portraits  

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