Portrait of a Gentleman of the Simpson Family
Silverpoint on Card
David Boudon (1748-c.1816)
Alexandria, District of Columbia
2 ¼” diameter
Inscribed on verso “Done by/ David Boudon Limner/ of Geneva Switzerland/ In Alexandria/District of Columbia/August 10-1806”
During the summer of 1806 David Boudon executed a small group of portraits of Alexandria sitters including this portrait of an ancestor that descended in the Simpson family. Of the several Simpsons who were residents of Alexandria in 1806 a likely candidate is John Simpson (1780-1824) who with his father operated a tavern at the west end of Duke Street. It was a common practice in the period for artists to establish a studio for themselves for several days at a tavern where clients could sit for portraits. It may be that Boudon utilized Simpson’s tavern for this purpose and executed his portrait either on commission or as a means of payment.
Boudon completed six other silverpoint portraits of the prominent Cazenove family while in Alexandria which were similarly inscribed. It is probably not coincidental that like Boudon, the Cazenoves immigrated to America from Geneva, Switzerland but there is no record of a prior association between the artist and patron. The other Virginia portraits by Boudon (Samuel Gordon, Dandridge Spotswood, unidentified man, unidentified child) are of different dates and where they were taken is not clear.
David Boudon’s life and career in America, including a checklist of his known portraits, was the subject of an article by in The Winterthur Portfilio 9, Along with his endeavors as a portrait artist, Boudon also taught painting, music and dancing. Born in Switzerland, he apprenticed as a copper plate engraver and was producing metal point portraits as early as 1780. Boudon arrived in America circa 1794 and traveled extensively in search of commissions. He is known to have worked (chronologically) in Charleston, Savannah, New York City, Maryland, Philadelphia, Alexandria, Raleigh, Fayetteville, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Washington. Around 1813 Boudon began a westward migration through Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and into Ohio where he was last recorded in 1816.
Of the surviving portraits by Boudon, the majority are profiles done in the silverpoint technique on vellum, paper or ivory. They frequently include unusually complete inscriptions on the backing papers detailing the artist’s name, place of birth, and date and place of the portrait’s execution.
Portraits by David Boudon are in the collections of Winterthur, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Maryland Historical Society, DAR, Met,