Alexander Spotswood Payne and His Brother John Robert Dandridge Payne, with Their Nurse (Primary Title)

The Payne Limner, American, active ca. 1780 - 1803 (Artist)

ca. 1790–91
oil on canvas
United States
Unframed: 56 × 69 in. (142.24 × 175.26 cm)
Framed: 63 3/4 × 76 1/4 in. (161.93 × 193.68 cm)

Taking residence in the manor house at New Market, a large plantation in Goochland County, Virginia, an unknown artist painted ten portraits of the family of Archer and Martha Payne. This depiction of their son Alexander, his baby brother John, and an enslaved nursemaid is among them.

The obviously self-taught artist, known today as the Payne Limner, struggled with anatomy and composition (evidence of his changes are visible on the canvas). Still, he managed to capture something of his subject’s appearances. He also conveyed the family’s privileged circumstances through setting, clothing, and the addition of the unnamed African American girl, whose legal status as a slave rendered her valuable taxable “property.” Despite recent Revolutionary rhetoric about liberty and freedom – including the famous speech by Archer Payne’s relation Patrick Henry – an economic system based on slave labor would continue in the South for another seventy-five years.

Gift of Miss Dorothy Payne
"Goochland Day," Goochland County Courthouse, VA, 13 May 1989.

"A Share of Honour," Virginia Women's Cultural History Project, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 8 November, 1984 - 9 January, 1985.

"Small Folk," New-York Historical Society, New York, NY, 25 November, 1980 - 1 February, 1981.

"The American Panorama," The Denver Museum of Art, Denver, CO, 17 March - 27 May , 1968.

"The Negro in American Art," Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME, 15 May - 7 July, 1964.
Oliver, Christopher C., "Payne Limner," The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, Volume 23, Folk Art, eds. Carol Crown and Cheryl Rivers (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2013) p. 376.

O'Leary, Elizabeth L. , Sylvia Yount, Susan Jensen Rawles, and David Park Curry. American Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Charlottesville: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts with the University of Virginia Press, 2010. (No. 21, p. 62-65).

Didactic panel at Historic Jamestowne Visitor Center, beginning fall 2006.

Didactic panel for permanent exhibition "In Service and Beyond: Domestic Work and Life in a Gilded Age Mansion," Maymont Foundation, opening 2005.

Maier, Pauline et al., Inventing America A History of the United States (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2003) color ill. p. 211.

Walker, Noah, Jacquie Jones, Susan Bell. Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery. Boston, MA: WGBH Boston Video, 1998. DVD, 360 min.

Carson, Cary, editor, Becoming Americans: Our Struggle to be Both Free and Equal (Williamsburg: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1998) color ill. p. 127.

Prown, Jonathan, "A Preponderance of Pineapples: The Problem of Southern Furniture," American Furniture 1997 (Hanover & Lon-don: University Press of New England, in asso. with the Chip-stone Foundation, 1997) pp. 17-18, b&w ill. fig. 21, p. 17.

Davidson, James West, The American Nation Beginnings to 1877 (Upper Saddle River, NJ & Needham, MA: Prentice Hall, 1997) color ill. p. 553., credit p. 690.

Kent, Deborah, African Americans in the Thirteen Colonies (New York: Children’s Press, Inc., 1996) ill. p. 18.

Davidson, James West, and Kathleen Underwood, American Journey The Quest for Liberty to 1877 (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1992) p. 645, ill., credit p. 791.

Bullard, CeCe Goochland Today and Yesterday A Pictorial History (Virginia Beach, VA: The Donning Company in conjunction with The Goochland County Historical Society, 1994) p. 11, ill.

Faragher, John Mack, et al, Out of Many A History of the American People, Vol. I (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1994) p. 106, ill.

Bisbee, M. Lauren, Of Land and Labor, Gunston Hall Plantation Life in the 18th Century, (Lorton, VA: Board of Regents, Gunston Hall, 1994) detail, pg. 24.

Hines, Donald, Collins Living History, Black Peoples of the Americas, 1500-1900s (London: Collins Educational, 1992), ill. 24, source 27.

Rasmussen, William M.S., "American Art to 1900," Antiques, VMFA Issue (August 1990), color plate XII, p. 284.

Richmond Academy of Medicine Auxiliary Foundation, 1990 Antiques Show Magazine, ill. p. 27.

Boyer, Paul S., et al., The Enduring Vision, A History of the American People (Massachusetts: D.C. Heath & Co., 1990) p. 182.

Baumgarten, Linda, "'Clothes for the People,' Slave Clothing in Early Virginia," Journal of Early Southern Decorative Arts, Vol. XIV, No. 2 (November 1988), ill. pp. 57-58.

Encyclpedia of Southern Culture (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988).

Lebsock, Suzanne, A Share of Honour (Richmond: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 1984), ill. p. 28, cat. no. 53, p. 159.

Lyon, Elizabeth Thompson, "The Payne Limner, M.A. thesis, Virginia Commonwealth University, 1981.

Brant, Sandra, and Elissa Cullman, Small Folk, A Celebration of Childhood in America (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1980), p. 3, ill. p. 14.

Bishop, Robert, Folk Painters of the South, (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1979), ill. p. 154.

Black, Mary "Folk Painting," Arts in Virginia, Vol. XII, No. 1 (Fall 1971), pp. 6-15, ill. p. 6.

Virginia Cavalcade, Vol. XXVIII, No. 4 (Spring 1968), ill. cover, p. 1.

The Art Quarterly, Vol. XVI, No. 3 (Autumn 1953), p. 251.

Payne, John M., Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. XXIV (April 1916), p. 200, 221.
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

Some object records are not complete and do not reflect VMFA's full and current knowledge. VMFA makes routine updates as records are reviewed and enhanced.