Cornelius Waldo, 1750
Waldo wears a simple white neck cloth, a brown waistcoat, and a collarless greatcoat with nine brown buttons accented with yellow and white highlights. His coat sleeves are folded back to reveal buttons on the cuffs. The folds in the coat suggest attempts by Badger at trompe loeil effects in the proper right sleeve and in the opening of the greatcoat. His attention to detail is evident in the hands, which include veins, highlights on the knuckles, creases on the finger joints, and carefully delineated fingernails. Waldo wears black breeches with rectangular buckles decorated with a simple floral motif on the four edges. White stockings are visible below the breeches.
The subject sits in a high-backed wooden armchair with green upholstery on the back and seat. The arm of the chair at the viewers right shows a scroll terminus, which is awkwardly turned as though the chair was at a right angle rather than in a three-quarters view. To Waldos right is a table draped in a green cloth with regularly spaced rows of white stitching and black and yellow decoration. On the table is a book inscribed in script "Memorandum/ Boston/ Novr/ 1750", below which is a page and a half of illegible writing. The far leaf of the book is tipped impossibly toward the picture plane and seems to float. The white pages have become semitransparent, revealing that the book was painted on top of the drapery. To the right of the book is a gray inkwell containing a single white plume. Badger has clearly struggled with the foreshortening throughout, especially in this part of the painting.
The background consists of a brown wall that is lightest to the immediate right of the sitter and that darkens farther to the right. This transition is made in several gradations in narrow sections painted with broad horizontal brushstrokes. The background is darkest to the left of the figure. Badger created a narrow band of light brown to outline the sitters proper left arm. Also in the background, behind the table, is a brown column, with highlights on the turnings at the base. At bottom-right is the following inscription in yellow paint: "Born Nov.r 17.th /1684/ Painted Novr/1750." The first two lines of this inscription are printed as though they were typeset, and the last two lines are in script.
Cornelius Waldo was a prosperous merchant, distiller, and landowner who held property in Boston, elsewhere in Massachusetts, and in Maine. According to family tradition, he was apprenticed to the Boston merchant John Oulton, who was later Waldos business partner. In 1712 the two men sold imported goods from London at their warehouse in Corn-market, including an array of ropes, from thin "Ratling" to "Cables of ten inches" thick; Spanish iron; "Hollands Duck," or linen; and gunpowder.2 In 1716 the two men were offering a similar array of "European Goods" at their warehouse, now on King-street in Boston.3 In 1721 Oulton and Waldo imported "Canary Wines," which they sold "by the Pipe or Quarter Cask."4 In 1734 Cornelius formed a brief partnership with his cousin Samuel, selling Madeira wine, which they had shipped from St. Kitts, by the pipe, hogshead, or quarter cask.5 (Samuel would later go on to fame for his role as second in command to Sir William Pepperrell in the attack on the French at Louisbourg.)6 In 1737 Cornelius placed his own advertisement for imported textiles next door to the Bunch of Grapes Tavern on Leveretts Lane, the address and trade formerly maintained by his wife, Faith.7 The next year, he advertised textiles for sale at his dwelling on Leveretts Lane near King-street, at his distilling house at Bartons Point, and at his warehouse on Long Wharf.8 Waldo continued in the merchant trade until 1748, when his sons Joseph and Daniel Waldo began selling various imported items on King-street.9 Although Cornelius Waldo is represented in his portrait as an active merchant updating his account books, Badger painted it in 1750, the year he apparently retired from business.
In addition to his merchant trade, Waldo established a distilling business in Boston. In 1722 he leased land from John Leverett and obtained permission to erect a still house. In 1738 he was selling rum, probably of his own manufacture, by the hogshead, barrel, and quarter cask.10 By 1743 his operations included several wells, a building at least forty feet long, a "Rum House and Engine that his Horse goes in to pump the Water," and a stable built over one of the wells. His works included "Stills" and "a mighty Worm Tub" that covered enough ground to fit a "Stable for two Horses & Hay to feed them."11
Waldos remaining enterprise was investment in land in Massachusetts and Maine. In 1719 he was a partner with his uncle Jonathan and Jonathans son-in-law Thomas Fairweather as one of twenty associate owners (along with ten original proprietors) of the Muscungus Patent, a vast tract of land in Maine that once encompassed a million acres. Corneliuss cousin Samuel would eventually own half of these acres.12 The land Waldo bought in Worcester County in partnership with John Oulton and Thomas Palmer was divided in 1727, when the partnership was dissolved. In 1733 he purchased a farm in Watertown; he would later offer to lease the back part of the dwelling to "a good Husbandman" and the front part of the house with "Gardens and other Accommodations, to a Gentleman for a Country Seat." At the time of his death, Waldo owned land in Rutland, Worcester, Holden, Watertown, and Plymouth.13
There are hints about Cornelius Waldos character and disposition in contemporary sources. Samuel Sewall recognized Waldo and his wife for their hospitality, noting that "He and she were very Courteous to me" when they gave Sewall shelter from the rain while waiting for the funeral of a Mr. Hiller in January of 1721.14 Waldo was not afraid to challenge powerful men, as demonstrated by his opposition in 1740 to the successful plot by Corneliuss cousin Samuel, William Shirley, and others to unseat Governor Jonathan Belcher in favor of Shirley.15 Waldo also could be obstinate. For example, when he felt he was treated unjustly in a 1743 land dispute, he refused to negotiate, telling John Staniford, "[You have] chosen the Law, the Law should finish it."16 Waldo held a number of minor offices in Boston, including justice of the peace for Suffolk County.17 At his death, Waldos estate of nearly 3,700 pounds was comprised primarily of land and included one "Negro Woman," probably a slave, who was valued at 200 pounds.18
Cornelius Waldo is a pendant to Faith Savage Waldo (Mrs. Cornelius Waldo). These portraits of a husband and wife have descended together in the sitters family. The dimensions of the two images are alike, as are the three-quarters format and even the chair in which each is posed. Although pendants typically face one another, each these faces the viewers right. Despite these similarities, the portrait of Mr. Waldo appears more refined than that of his wife. Badger here made greater effort to provide individualizing detail, and his paint handling is generally more fluid and subtle. The greatest weaknesses of drawing in this portrait are seen in the furniture and still-life objects, whereas the figure of Mrs. Waldo is the weakest aspect of that painting.
The inclusion of an account book is a characteristic use of emblematic props in Badgers portraits: a teething toy for an infant, a pet for a child, and so on. The book and inkwell identify Cornelius Waldo as an entrepreneur, probably referring to his trade in imported goods from London and the Caribbean and perhaps also to his distilling business. Similar representations of businessmenanswering letters or writing in their account booksare found in the work of Smibert, as in his London portrait of Henry Ferne (1727, Worcester Art Museum) and such American portraits as Daniel Oliver (1729, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) and Joshua Winslow (1729, Boston Athenaeum).24 The London-trained Joseph Blackburn painted men attending to their business in such portraits as Colonel Theodore Atkinson. And in 1765, Badgers fellow Bostonian John Singleton Copley would paint the fashionable young merchant John Hancock, similarly employed (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, deposited by the City of Boston). Smiberts, Blackburns, and Copleys portraits give the impression of the sitter being momentarily interrupted, whereas Badgers Cornelius Waldo is static, and the worktable functions strictly as an attribute of his profession.
2. Boston News-Letter, June 2330, 1712.
3. Ibid., September 24October 1, 1716.
4. Ibid., July 31August 7, 1721. A pipe was equivalent to half a tun, or two hogsheads, or four barrels, Oxford English Dictionary.
5. Boston Weekly News-Letter, August 29September 12, 1734.
6. Lincoln 1898, 11. Samuel Waldo is the subject of a full-length portrait by Robert Feke (Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine).
7. Boston News-Letter, April 28May 5, 1737.
8. Boston Gazette, November 27December 25, 1738.
9. Boston Weekly Gazette or Weekly Journal, May 24 and 31, 1748.
10. Boston Gazette, November 27December 25, 1738.
11. This account of the distilling operation is found in an open letter describing a land dispute between Waldo and John Staniford, Boston Gazette or Weekly, September 20, 1743.
12. Lincoln 1902, I, 9899.
13. Boston Weekly News-Letter, March 418, 1742; probate inventory of Cornelius Waldo, April 26, 1754, Suffolk County Probate Records, Boston, docket 10482, vol. 49, 273.
14. Thomas 1973, II, 971.
15. Lincoln 1902, I, 73.
16. Boston Gazette, September 20, 1743.
17. Boston Gazette, June 5, 1753. It reads, "And Yesterday died here after a painful Illness Cornelius Waldo, Esq; One of His Majestys Justices of the Peace for the County of Suffolk."
18. Inventory of the estate of Cornelius Waldo, April 26, 1754, Suffolk County Registry of Probate, Boston, docket 10482.
19. Park 1918a, 160 n 1, 164, 168, 199200.
20. Tuckerman 1867, 42.
21. William Sawitzky proposed that Christian Gullager may have updated the Badger portraits when he painted likenesses of Waldos son and daughter-in-law Daniel Waldo, Sr. and Rebecca Salisbury Waldo in Worcester about 1789. Dresser 1949, 110; Sadik 1976, 18, 33 n 14. After examining the Waldo portraits closely with the museums conservator, Edmond de Beaumont, the curator Louisa Dresser concluded, "No evidence can be found that these areas are of later date than the rest of the painted surfaces." Memorandum, June 26, 1956, object file, Worcester Art Museum. Close physical examination of the painting undertaken for this catalogue supports the attribution to a single artist.
22. Sellers 1957, 425, 427; Belknap 1959, 290, 325, and plate 18.
23. Sellers 1957, 412; Prosser 1995, 200.
24. Saunders 1995, 107, 149, 162, 201, 205.