Charles Carroll of Carrollton

Artist: Thomas Sully (1783-1872)
Title: Charles Carroll of Carrollton (1737-1832)
Date: 1834
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 94 x 60"
Accession number: MSA SC 1545-1114

In January 1833, the Maryland Legislature formed a joint committee to "devise some suitable tribute of respect to the memory of the venerated Charles Carroll," the distinguished former Senator and oldest living Signer of the Declaration of Independence, who died at his home in Baltimore two months earlier at the age of ninety-five.

The Commitee engaged the services of artist Thomas Sully to paint a full-length portrait of Carroll to be hung in the Maryland State House. Sully began his commission in October 1833, basing his work on prelimary sketches for the portrait he was painting for Carroll's granddaughter Marianne and her husband the Marquess of Wellesley. These studies were made in 1826 and 1827, when Carroll's advanced age made him unable to sit for long periods of time. As a result, Sully made several studies of his subject's head and body based on at least one sitting. Carroll is shown sitting in an upholstered armchair at a cloth covered table, with a simplified background indicating a paneled wall. Carroll's aged face, surrounded by white hair and cravat, is strikingly set atop his darkly clad figure. The elegant figure is further enhanced by Sully's inclusion of the space above Carroll's head, as if the subject has just sat down at the desk which is cast in light against the shadowed background.

Sully's monumental portrait, considered by scholars to be one of the finest state portraits in American art, has been displayed in the Maryland State House since its delivery in 1834. There, it has fulfilled the goal of the Maryland Legislature in creating a memorial to Carroll that would "permanently indicate to posterity a noble model of public spirit...and keep alive to future ages of the republic the image of a useful life and a glorious example..."