(American, 1815 - 1883)
James Pancoast (c. 1815-1883)
Oil on canvas, 36 1/8 x 28 7/8 inches
Signed and inscribed at lower center: “W. E. WINNER./PORTRAIT PAINTER/No. 35 No. 2nd St./Phila”
Inscribed in ink on stretcher verso: “WINNER, W. E./JAMES PANCOURT OF BORDEN-TOWN, N.J./W 10076”
This portrait probably dates from 1844, when Winner listed his address in Artists’ Fund Society exhibition catalogue as “Second above Market,” thus matching the “35 No. 2nd St.” given in the inscription. The inscription on the reverse identifies the sitter as James Pancourt of Bordentown, yet there is no record that such a person existed. This may in fact be James Pancoast, whose name appears in the 1840 New Jersey Burlingtown County and Chesterfield Township census. Records at the International Genealogical Index suggest that Pancoast was born in Philadelphia around 1773, one of four children born to Samuel and Sarah Stephens Pancoast.1 The New Jersey State Archives in Trenton has a will and inventory (no. 15426C) of a James Pancoast of Bordentown that was filed in March, 1848. The document indicated that he had been in the lumber business, and was fairly wealthy. His estate, which was valued at $6,623.76, was divided among his three children (one of whom was described as being in a “state of alienation of mind”). The will mentions that his wife’s name was Sarah, and the New Jersey State Archives has a record that states a James Pancoast married Sarah Wright, daughter of Israel and Alice Wright, on Dec. 13, 1797 in Bordentown. It is quite plausible that these documents refer to the same person, and that this is the portly and elderly gentleman who appears in Winner’s portrait.
1. See the Mormon Church’s genealogical records at their website: http://www.familysearch.org
About the Artist
(American, 1815 - 1883)
Winner was born in Philadelphia and spent his life here with the exception of a visit to Charleston in 1848. He does not appear in the student records of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts but is listed as an Associate artist in 1847 and 1860. His exhibition record at the Academy is remarkable for its longevity (1836 to 1881) and for the range of subjects which it reveals. Portraits, landscapes, genre (The Village Letter Carrier, Youthful Sports), history (Incident in the Storming of Quebec) religion (Elijah and the Angel), literary illustration (Coriolanus) and cooperative efforts (Sea Piece; figures by Winner, sea by G. R. Bonfield) all played a part in his repertoire. He also exhibited at the Boston Athenaeum, the Apollo Association, the American Art Union, and the National Academy of Design.