DescriptionWilliam Thaw, Sr. (1818-1889) was an eminent Pittsburgh businessman of the late nineteenth century. His portrait was rendered through a photograph and two paintings, all in the University of Pittsburgh Art Gallery collection. Given the similarity of pose, clothing, and lighting between the three images, it seems most likely that the painted likenesses were made as copies of the photograph and not from live sittings. If these paintings were indeed made as manual, paint-and-canvas copies of the photograph, they are two full steps removed from the perceptual original in the person of William Thaw. Such a state of affairs suggests that the desire here was not so much to represent the ideal Mr. Thaw in image form as it was to have as many copies of his general likeness as was needed by the Pittsburgh élite. Sometimes theory cedes way to practicality.
Researchers: Alison Langmead and Josh Ellenbogen