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A MAP of the most INHABITED part of VIRGINIA. Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson, cartographers; Thomas Jefferys, engraver, London, England, 1768. Black-and-white line engraving with period color. OH: 31 3/8"; OW: 49 1/8."

A MAP of the most INHABITED part of VIRGINIA. Joshua Fry and Peter Jefferson, cartographers; Thomas Jefferys, engraver, London, England, 1768. Black-and-white line engraving with period color. OH: 31 3/8"; OW: 49 1/8."

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Prints and Maps

THE ALTERNATIVE OF WILLIAMSBURG. Attributed to Philip Dawe; printed for Robert Sayer and John Bennett, London, England, February 16, 1775. Black-and-white mezzotint engraving. OH: 14 1/4"; OW: 10 1/3."

THE ALTERNATIVE OF WILLIAMSBURG. Attributed to Philip Dawe; printed for Robert Sayer and John Bennett, London, England, February 16, 1775. Black-and-white mezzotint engraving. OH: 14 1/4"; OW: 10 1/3."

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SPECTATORS at a PRINT-SHOP in St. PAUL’s CHURCH YARD. Printed for Carington Bowles, London, England, ca. 1760. Black-and-white mezzotint engraving with hand color. OH: 14 1/2"; OW: 10 ¾."

SPECTATORS at a PRINT-SHOP in St. PAUL’s CHURCH YARD. Printed for Carington Bowles, London, England, ca. 1760. Black-and-white mezzotint engraving with hand color. OH: 14 1/2"; OW: 10 ¾."

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Cunne Shote, the Indian CHIEF. Engraved by James McArdell after a painting by Francis Parsons, London, England, ca. 1762. Black-and-white mezzotint.

Cunne Shote, the Indian CHIEF. Engraved by James McArdell after a painting by Francis Parsons, London, England, ca. 1762. Black-and-white mezzotint.

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Portraits form a majority of Colonial Williamsburg’s collection of paintings and drawings, but many other types of pictures are represented, too: landscapes, depictions of cities and towns, genre scenes, still life compositions, marine views, mourning pictures, student art, flora and fauna, fraktur, calligraphic drawings, parade banners, overmantel paintings, and fireboards. In addition, the broadly applied portrait category can include images of particular animals, buildings, and maritime vessels.

Most of the Foundation’s pictures are carefully crafted works in relatively durable materials, but simple sketches are also treasured, even those that, originally, were not intended to be saved, for they sometimes illustrate the creative process more clearly than highly finished works. Beyond aesthetics, the Foundation’s paintings and drawings act as visual historical documents and inform choices and decisions in many other areas of curatorial responsibility, for they illustrate how earlier people lived. For instance, a painting of a tea party may reveal not only how people consumed the beverage and what utensils they used for that purpose but also what they wore, how they styled their hair, how their residence was constructed and furnished, how employers and servants interacted, and much more.

Paintings and drawings created in Virginia are of special interest, while pictures made in, or known to have been used in, the Williamsburg area in the 18th century are critical to efforts to furnish buildings in the town’s Historic Area. The geographic range of the collection is much broader, however. It includes some (mostly British) European works, with heavier representation from the 13 original American colonies and, in some cases, beyond. The academic collection (chronologically capped at about 1830) is strongest in American portraiture from the second half of the 18th century. The folk art collection (with no terminal date) possesses particular depth in New England and New York state portraiture, mourning pictures, and theorem paintings.

Books about Colonial Williamsburg Prints and Maps

  • Degrees of Latitude: Mapping Colonial America

    A splendidly illustrated volume which goes beyond standard cartobiliographical analysis to examine the inspiration behind the production of seventy-three maps, atlases, and sea charts.

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    By Margaret Beck Pritchard and Henry G. Taliaferro

    This splendidly illustrated volume goes beyond standard cartobiliographical analysis to examine the inspiration behind the production of seventy-three maps, atlases, and sea charts. The first part describes what maps reveal about the history of the American nation and explains why they were important to their owners. The second part discusses the rare atlas owned by John Custis of Williamsburg. An overview of the English map trade in the late seventeenth century is also included. Published in association with Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers Colonial Williamsburg Decorative Arts Series 448 pp., 186 color illustrations, 97 black-and-white illustrations, 11 5/16 x 9 1/4 2002 CW No. 961508 Hardbound ISBN 0-87835-214-0 $95.00



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