There’s been a mystery swirling around about one of our paintings. Surprise, right? It holds a place of pride above the fireplace in the Krause Room. So clearly, it’s someone special. When we took the painting down for the renovation of the room, I found a number on the reverse, and so could correlate it to a painting in our Sotheby’s log.
However, the notation there wasn’t much help. It said the painting was of either JP or JR Smith, and the painter was listed as ECB. With a search through the 1961 acquisitions log, I found that the initials were still in question, but that the painter was identified as Edward Caledon Bruce, a Virginia artist and writer. With that information in hand, I found that the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester, Virginia had a collection of Bruce’s paintings.
We took the painting down, and Nick had a chance to study the back of the painting where he discovered many little clues, which I had overlooked. The painting was signed in two places, and the sitter’s name and date was marked on the back. The stretcher had little notches in the corners indicating how it was to be put together.
But that still left the mystery of who the sitter was. There was a note in an old Maryland Medical Journal talking a bit about the painting, which was given to Marcia Noyes on her retirement.
Upon her death, only months after receiving the painting, Marcia left it to MedChi, and it’s been in a prominent place ever since.
Although I searched some of the library committee’s records, I wasn’t able to find out where the painting came from, or any more about the sitter.
Nick and I speculated about who the sitter was, and in a late night e-mail, I received this information from him, via his father, a physician and medical historian in Virginia:
I am very pleased to tell you that his full name was Dr. John Philip Smith, and he was a founding member of the medical college here in Winchester, which I mentioned this afternoon. He was born in Virginia in 1822, and died in Clarke County, Virginia, in 1884. During the Civil War he was a surgeon in the 2nd Virginia Infantry. I wasn't sure it was him at first, until I noticed that his eyes skew apart as in the portrait.
Birth: Jan. 27, 1822 Virginia, USA
Death: Dec. 29, 1884 Clarke County Virginia, USA
Father: Philip Smith
Mother: Louisa Collier Christian
1840 - M.D. degree, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA (fr: Clarke Co, VA)
03/27/1847 - Married, Sally Bland Newton (she died in Clarke Co, VA, in 1867)
1846 - Professor, Theory and Practice of Medicine, Winchester Medical College, Winchester, Frederick Co, VA
1850 - Practiced medicine, Winchester, Frederick Co., VA
05/16/1861 - Surgeon, Volunteer Forces of Virginia, appointed by the Governor and Council, assigned to Harpers Ferry, VA
06/24/1861 - Surgeon, Confederate States Army, Winchester, VA
07/01/1861 - Appointed Surgeon, Provisional Army of the Confederate States
07/01/1861-09/01/1861 - Surgeon, Winchester, VA
09/01/1861 - Assigned to temporary duty as Surgeon, 2nd VA Infantry, near Centreville, VA
09/00/1861 - Surgeon, Camp Pickens, Manassas, VA
10/18/1861 - Surgeon, 2nd VA Infantry
11/01/1861 - Surgeon, 2nd VA Infantry Centreville, Fairfax Co, VA
11/06/1861 - Surgeon, 2nd VA Infantry camp near Winchester, VA
11/11/1861-03/11/1862 - Surgeon, Winchester, VA
03/31/1862-04/06/1862 - Surgeon, Mt. Jackson, VA
05/26/1862 - Surgeon, Winchester, VA
09/02/1862 - Relieved from duty as Inspector of Hospitals and will report to Surgeon [Lafayette] Guild, Medical Director, &c., Gordonsville, VA [S.O. 205/25]
09/30/1862 - Surgeon, Winchester, VA
10/00/1862 - Surgeon-in-charge, Post at Winchester, VA
11/08/1862 - Surgeon-in-charge, Gen. Hospital, Winchester, VA
11/13/1862 - "An Army Medical Board composed of the following officers is detailed for the examination of medical officers and applicants for appointment in the Medical Department, serving with the army under the command of General Robert E. Lee: Surgeon J. P. Smith, president ….." [S.O. 266/16]
01/20/1863 - At a camp near New Market [VA]
07/15/1863 - "Surgeon J. P. Smith is assigned to duty in charge of the general hospitals in Winchester and will report accordingly" [S.O. 167/24]
07/26/1863 - Received pay, Mt. Jackson, VA
07/27/1863 - Surgeon, Winchester, VA
08/08/1863 - Ordered to report to Senior Surgeon P. E. Hines, Petersburg, to relieve [John Herbert] Claiborne, Surgeon-in-charge, Confederate Hospital
08/18/1863 - Ordered to "report to Senior Surgeon P. E. Hines, Petersburg, VA, for assignment to duty as Senior Surgeon of Board of Examiners"
08/19/1863 - Senior Surgeon, Medical Examining Board, Petersburg, VA [S.O. 125/5]
11/10/1863 - "In addition to his present duties will relieve Surgeon J. H. Claiborne in charge of the Confederate Hospital, Petersburg, VA"
03/01/1864 - Surgeon-in-charge, Confederate Hospital, Petersburg, VA
04/23/1864 - Senior Surgeon, Medical Examining Board, Petersburg, VA
05/11/1864 - Surgeon-in-charge, Confederate Hospital, Petersburg, VA
05/26/1864 - Replaced as Surgeon, Confederate Hospital, Petersburg, VA, by Surgeon[Gillespie S.] West
05/00/1864 - Chairman, Medical Examining Board, Petersburg, VA
06/06/1864 - Senior Surgeon, Medical Examining Board, Petersburg, VA
07/01/1864 - Senior Surgeon, Medical Examining Board, Petersburg, VA
08/04/1864 - Chairman, Medical Examining Board, Petersburg, VA
09/02/1864 - Left on leave, from Petersburg, VA (30 days)
10/17/1864 - Assigned to temporary special duty at Camp Lee [VA]
11/15/1864 - Granted 30 days leave 12/05/1864 - Left on leave, from Petersburg, VA (30 days)
01/06/1865 - Returned to hospitals, Petersburg, VA
02/00/1865 - Surgeon in hospitals, Petersburg, VA
12/14/1867 - Practiced medicine, Millwood, Clarke Co, VA
1870 - Physician & farmer, Chapel Township, Clarke Co, VA
1878 - Visitor, Virginia Agriculture and Mechanical College (now Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University), Blacksburg, VA
1880 - Practiced medicine, Chapel, Clarke Co, VA
12/29/1884 - Died, "Wood Park", Clarke Co, VA
Now the only mystery that remains is how did Marcia come to find this painting and acquire it.