Jarvis, John Wesley - portrait of Hon John MacGillivray
Painted around 1820, this miniature portrait is unsigned and may be by a British artist. However, it does have North American connections as the sitter is stated to be William MacGillivray, who held office in trading companies in Canada. This information came from the previous owner of the portrait who lived in Canada.
[Much later - 2015 - A kind and knowledgeable visitor has since suggested the miniature is likely by the American artist, John Wesley Jarvis (1780-1840).]
A photograph of the miniature does appear on page 46 of the book "A History of the Clan MacGillivray" by George Macgillivray, where the sitter is described as "Neil John Gillivray XII Chief, circa 1865". However, Neil John was born in 1827 and from the costume it appears the portrait was painted about 40 or 50 years earlier than the suggested date of 1865.
A family tree in the book does refer to Hon. John MacGillivary, apparently the father of Neil John, who entered North West Co. Canada 1798, became a Legislative Councillor, Upper Canada, married Isabelle MacLean and died in 1855.
The book does also refer to a Captain William MacGillivaray who appears to have been the brother of Hon John and uncle of Neil John MacGillivary. Thus it seems likely that the sitter is a member of the family, although it is not currently clear who, although the date of the clothing could suggest Hon. John MacGillivray as a possibility. The sitter must have been a person of some importance, as miniatures could only be afforded by wealthy people.
At Scotsman.com Heritage & Culture - Scots in Canada - Brooches for ... it is commented "The highly lucrative British North American fur trade was dominated by two firms - the North West Company (NWC) and the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC), both of which were chiefly staffed by Scots. More than 80 per cent of HBC workers were Orcadians, while the NWC was operated by Highlanders such as James McGill, Simon MacTavish and William MacGillivray."
Fort William was constructed as a post of the North West Company in the years between 1800 and 1804 and was originally named New Fort. In 1807 it was renamed Fort William in honour of William MacGillivray (1764-1825, then a prominent member of the company. In 1821 the North West and Hudson's Bay Companies were amalgamated and Fort William became a Hudson's Bay fort. Trade at Fort William began rapidly to decline until the post was finally closed in 1881. 753
Later - A kind visitor has advised that they agree John MacGillivray seeme to be the most likely identity of the sitter. They advise; "I have two images of William McGillivray in my collection. The first is from Fort William's Collection and the second from the McCord Museum (McGill University's museum in Montreal). The second was painted by William Berczy who was busy painting all of Quebec Society. It is thanks to his work that we know what most of the players look like.
The resemblance between your miniature and the two images I am sending you shows that apples were pretty close to the tree in that family. The only issue is hair as in the miniature the hair is very straight, while in the other two William has either curled or curly hair - seems odd that he would do that in two pictures and not a third... I am thinking that you might have been right with your initial impression that it was the brother the Hon. John McGillivray."
Much later - 2015 - A kind and knowledgeable visitor has suggested that the miniature is likely by John Wesley Jarvis.
Posted by Don Shelton at 1:52 PM