From school picture day to classical marble busts, portraits are ubiquitous. They are so much a part of daily life that it is easy to forget how important they are and what they reveal about the person being represented. This is as true for selfies as it is for portrait paintings like that of museum co-founder Stephen H. P. Pell or his great grandfather William Ferris Pell, who began the tradition of historic preservation at Fort Ticonderoga two centuries ago.
Painted by Daniel Huntington, a prolific artist whose subjects included Washington Irving and Abraham Lincoln, William Ferris Pell’s portrait conveys more than his likeness. As a successful businessman in New York City, sitting for a portrait was fairly common. However, he is not shown sitting at a table surrounded by ledgers or surrounded by expensive furniture in the height of fashion as many of his contemporaries preferred, William Ferris Pell is seated before a window in the countryside. It is a familiar view of the shores of Lake Champlain—the ruins of Fort Ticonderoga sitting on a rise above what is clearly the Pavilion. The prominent location past his right shoulder tells the viewer how important it was that the fort should be preserved for future generations, and where future generations of his own family would be able to enjoy them in their summer estate, the Pavilion.
As work on the Pavilion collection continues, stay tuned here and on Fort Ticonderoga’s Facebook page for updates on the restoration of the Pavilion, new discoveries, and more from Fort Ticonderoga every week.