John Dandridge, c. 1715
The Dandridge dynasty was established in Virginia with the arrival from London before 1717 of brothers, William and John. After a decade, William Dandridge (1689–1743) was appointed to the governor's council, the highest political position available to a resident of the colony. In 1732 John Dandridge (1700–1756), became the father of Martha, the future wife of George Washington. In that way the younger brother became posthumously enshrined in the hierarchy of Virginia notables.
This portrait, which obviously has suffered extensive damage to its paint surface, depicts a youthful sitter of good dress and breeding. It may have been painted in London, on the occasion of the departure of the brothers. John Dandridge first lived in Hampton, under William's tutelage and possibly for a time under his brother's roof. When William relocated to his estate Elsing Green, in King William County, John moved nearby, settling on the opposite bank of the Pamunkey River in New Kent County. In 1730 he married Frances Jones, daughter of a one-time burgess of King William County. The couple produced eight children. Martha (1731–1802) was the oldest. In 1732 Dandridge served as clerk of New Kent County. In 1895, when the Virginia Historical Society purchased this painting, the label "John Dandridge, Father of Mrs. Washington" was attached to the frame to explain why.