Elijah Boardman, 1789
Ralph Earl (American, 1751–1801)
Oil on canvas; 83 x 51 in. (210.8 x 129.5 cm)
Bequest of Susan W. Tyler, 1979 (1979.395)
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 by green cloth secured with brass nails. The books on the shelves include the three-volume set of Dr. John Moore's Travels, two volumes of Shakespeare's plays, John Milton's Paradise Lost, a volume of Samuel Johnson's dictionary, and the London Magazine for 1786. Through the open paneled door to the right, 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 cultivation.