Henry Benbridge

(American, 1743 - 1812)

The portrait painter and miniaturist Henry Benbridge was born in Philadelphia, where he was baptized on May 27, 1744, at Christ Church. After the death of his father in 1751, he was raised by his mother and her second husband, a wealthy Scottish merchant. Benbridge attended the Mathematical School of the Academy of Philadelphia until 1758, when he briefly studied with John Wollaston (c. 1710-c. 1767). He studied and copied prints after works by the old masters, and around 1765 went to Rome to attend the art academy that was then under the direction of Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-1779). Benbridge also received instruction from the portraitist Pompeo Battoni (1708-1787), who heavily influenced his style. Benbridge returned to Philadelphia in 1771 and became a member of theĀ American Philosophical Society. He married Esther (Hetty) Sage, a miniaturist who had studied under the Peales, and around 1773 the couple settled in Charleston, South Carolina. Benbridge enjoyed a thriving practice painting portraits in the city until 1780, when it fell to the British during the Revolutionary War and he was forced to flee to St. Augustine, Florida. He briefly returned to Philadelphia, but was back in Charleston by 1784. Benbridge moved to Norfolk, Virginia, around 1800, where he briefly taught the painter Thomas Sully (1783-1872). He died in Philadelphia and was buried in Christ Church.