John Vanderlyn
Sampson Vryling Stoddard Wilder, about 1808–12

Technical Notes
The painting’s primary support is a plain-weave canvas that is attached to a six-member, keyable wooden stretcher. The corners of the stretcher appear to be joined with simple mortise construction, and the cross-members have dovetailed mortise joints. It is likely that the stretcher is original to the painting.

The ground appears to be white and is evenly applied in a moderately thick layer. Examination with infrared vidicon reveals that Vanderlyn painted a loose sketch of the contours of the coat with thin dark paint. The portrait has low impasto on the collar and necktie. In general, the paint is smoothly and thinly applied. The face appears to have been painted primarily from dark to light. Some blending of the thinly applied paint occurs on the canvas, indicating a wet-on-wet technique. Other areas clearly show the use of a wet-on-dry application. The paint used for the shadows is more thinly applied than other areas of the painting.

The desktop was first painted entirely with the reddish-brown paint that was used for the wood color. After the paint dried, the white letters and quill were added on top of the brown color. The green desk covering was later painted around those objects. Cracks and increased transparency in the white paint of the letters reveal the underlying red paint of the desktop. The stack of letters has a strong pentimento of the edge of the desk showing through.

A pentimento is also visible to the right of the sitter’s face, where the height of the collar was altered. Brushwork indicates that the collar was once slightly lower and opened out a little bit more than in the final version. The contour of the proper left shoulder was also altered; Vanderlyn reduced it by painting over it with the background color.

Overlapping paint shows that the white of the waistcoat was painted after the coat had been painted. The final background color was painted after the figure was completed, as indicated by the way in which the background overlaps edges of the coat.

The painting has localized areas of drying cracks that are found primarily in the dark reds and browns, especially in the curtain in the upper left. Extensive inpainting occurs in the drying cracks on the curtain. Additional inpainting occurs in small scattered losses, mostly in the center right background, and in minimal losses in the shadow of the proper left eye and on the side of the nose. Damage in the face is not extensive and has been lightly retouched. Abrasion, probably the result of past cleaning attempts, is visible in various spots throughout the painting, including in the shadow cast by the chair onto the sitter’s leg.

The varnish appears to be a synthetic resin varnish. There are no visible signs of discoloring in the varnish coating, although it is somewhat dull.

Frame Notes
The heavy gilded wood frame consists of multiple joined pieces of molding with applied compo ornament. The sight edge of the frame has a tongue and dart motif. This is followed by a plain, flat section, then a narrow band of bead-and-reel ornament. The outer part of the molding is the largest section; it has an ogee profile with a flat upper edge and a wide band of acanthus leaf and fleur-de-lis ornament. The bole beneath the gilding is a reddish earth color.

The frame has a somewhat thickly applied toning layer that is apparently comprised of a mixture of earth colors. The frame appears to have been entirely regilded. The back of the frame has been built out with applied wood boards that have been painted.