Ralph Earl (American, Worcester County, Massachusetts 1751–1801 Bolton, Connecticut)
Oil on canvas
83 x 51 in. (210.8 x 129.5 cm)
Bequest of Susan W. Tyler, 1979
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 755
Earl portrayed the richly dressed dry goods merchant Elijah Boardman (1760–1823) in his store in New Milford, Connecticut. His right hand rests on a counting desk protected and decorated by green cloth secured with brass nails. The shelves of the desk house books, including Moore's "Travels," Shakespeare's plays, Milton's "Paradise Lost," Johnson's dictionary, and the "London Magazine" for 1786. Through the open paneled door to the right of the subject, bolts of plain and patterned textiles, including one with a prominently displayed British tax stamp, invite inspection and tell the viewer how Boardman earned a living, just as the books in his desk and the letter in his hand speak of his learning and awareness of culture. Earl also painted Esther Boardman, sister to Elijah (1991.338).
Signature: [at lower left]: R. Earl pinxt 1789
By descent, Cornelius Boardman Tyler, Plainfield, New Jersey, died 1955; Mrs. Cornelius Boardman (Susan W.) Tyler, Fairfield, New Jersey, died 1979