|Description: ||Charles Coleman Sellers, in his Portraits and Miniatures by Charles Willson Peale (Philadelphia, 1952), p. 190, unraveled the complex history of this portrait. The Philadelphia antiquarian George Vaux (1832-1915) purchased it in 1854 for his sister-in-law Hannah Samson believing that it represented her father William Sansom (1763-1840), the famous Philadelphia Quaker real estate developer for whom Sansom Street was named. Family members correctly identified the sitter as William's lesser known younger brother Joseph Sansom (1767-1826). Joseph Sansom, who was also in the real estate business, was well known as a philanthropist and active member of the American Philosophical Society. In a now lost inscription that Vaux wrote on the reverse of the painting, he described the sitter as "a man of culture in his day and an early antiquarian."
The erroneous identification of the sitter apparently originated with Rubens Peale, author of the Historical Catalogue of the Paintings in the Philadelphia Museum (1813), a mistake that was repeated by the compiler of the sale catalogue, Peale's Museum Gallery of Oil Paintings (Philadelphia: Thomas and Sons, Auctioneers, 1854). These two references indicate that Charles Willson Peale originally painted this portrait for his Philadelphia Museum, where he exhibited the likenesses of "Revolutionary patriots and other distinguished characters."
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