Jane Bowles Wormeley (Mrs. Ralph Wormeley IV), c. 1755–57
Born to a prominent Maryland family, Jane Bowles (born ca. 1726) was the second wife of Ralph Wormeley IV and the mother of six of his seven children, including his oldest son and heir.
Producing large and costly three-quarter length paintings like this one spurred John Wollaston to do some of his finest work in America. Probably to the satisfaction of his sitters, who wanted to be recognized as gentry, Wollaston painted a number of them in nearly identical costumes and poses. The requisite rich fabric and intricate lace are present, a survival from the tradition that started in England a century earlier with Anthony van Dyck. Like many of her compatriots on canvas, Jane Wormeley postures precisely as fashion dictated. Yet she emerges from the canvas with individuality.