FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 3, 2005
Contact: Maribeth Cowan, Public Relations Director
(804) 342-9665 email:
VIRGINIA'S COLONIAL DYNASTIES OPENS FEBRUARY 19,
VIRGINIA HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Richmond, VA–Virginia's Colonial Dynasties, an exhibit that features some of Virginia's most prominent
and influential colonial families, will be on view February 19 through November 27, 2005, at the Virginia Historical Society.
Nearly 30 portraits dating from 1681 to 1757 of the Randolph, Fitzhugh, Byrd, Wormeley, Lewis, and Gordon families by
such artists as John Wollaston, Matthew Pratt, and John Hesselius, demonstrate the role of portraiture in establishing and
maintaining family prominence in colonial Virginia. Also included is a model of Wilton, home of William Randolph III
and one of the colony's grandest mansions; a side chair from Shirley plantation, a Carter home; and a survey plan of
William Byrd II's Westover.
Although these families wielded much influence and power in colonial Virginia, they were surprisingly insecure. A display
of family portraits, a phenomenon peculiar to colonial Virginia, was one of the ways these families entrenched and thereby
preserved their standing. If financial misfortune altered the family status, portraits of ancestors tended to be a stabilizing
force, while portraits of heirs served to project family standing into the future.
Early Virginia portraits reveal much about the families that commissioned them, as well as how these Virginians
valued how they were perceived by others. Also evident is how strongly these families maintained their bond with
England. Portraits of children or ones with children in them give us an idea of the values of early colonial Virginians.
We see, for example, how at tender ages children were expected to assume the genteel behavior of refined adults.
This exhibition goes beyond art and tells us much about family life in early colonial society, how it was similar,
and how it differed from modern-day life.
The Virginia Historical Society is located at 428 N. Boulevard. The Story of Virginia, An American Experience,
a 10,000-square-foot exhibition with more than a thousand objects covering all of Virginia history from prehistoric
times to the present is featured in the Robins Center for Virginia History. Hours: Monday-Saturday 10am - 5pm
and Sunday 1pm - 5pm (Museum Galleries only). Admission: $5/adults, $4/seniors 55+ ($2/Tuesdays–galleries
only), $3/children and students, free/members. Admission to the galleries is free on Mondays. For group tour
information, call (804) 342-9652. For more information, please call (804) 358-4901 or visit