Object talk: Ralph Earl's portrait of Maj. James Fairlie
August 11, 2017 –
Emily Schulz Parsons, deputy director and curator of the American Revolution Institute, presents Ralph Earl’s portrait of Maj. James Fairlie, depicting the Revolutionary War officer in his military uniform and Eagle insignia of the Society of the Cincinnati. Major Fairlie served in the American army for the entirety of the Revolutionary War, much of it as an aide-de-camp to Major General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben. Fairlie fought in the Battles of Saratoga and Monmouth Court House, helped secure West Point after Benedict Arnold’s treason, and was taken prisoner on the campaign to Yorktown. After the war, Fairlie joined the Society of the Cincinnati and served as secretary of the New York branch. In 1786 or 1787 Ralph Earl, the most prominent artist in New York at the time, painted this oil portrait of Fairlie—one of two dozen the artist painted while he was in debtors prison in the city hall. Among these other sitters were General Steuben and William North, another one of Steuben’s aides.
The presentation will last approximately 30 minutes with time afterwards for up-close viewing of the portrait.