Sunday, July 1, 2012

Seafaring Sunday: The Curious Portrait

The gentleman above is 17th century seafarer Captain Thomas Smith and the painting is a self-portrait.  It may, in fact, be the only surviving painting by Smith.  The Captain was a Bostonian and a Puritan and his seeming disregard for the vanities of his success as a sea captain can be not only seen but felt in this painting.  Clearly, Captain Smith had his own mortality on his mind when he took up his brush. 

A poem is inscribed on the paper under the skull on the left, and this continues the overarching theme of  earthly success being nothing but vanity:

Why Why should the World be Minding
Therein a World of Evils Finding
Then Farewell World; Farewell thy Jarres
thy Joies thy Toies thy Wiles thy Warrs
Truth Sound Retreat; I am not sorye.
The Eternal draws to Him my heart.
By Faith (which can thy Force Subvert)
To Crown me (after Grace) with Glory.

Poor Captain Smith.  Even in eschewing the evils of the world, he could not bring himself to imagine anything for his immortal soul but Glory.

Header: Self~Portrait of Captain Thomas Smith of Boston c 1680 via American Gallery


Timmy! said...

That is kind of a cool painting, though, Pauline...

I like the skull in the foreground and the sip in the background.

Pauline said...

There are a lot of details there, and I think it is a worthwhile contemplation. All that said, Captain Smith may be thinking just a little too much...

Mary Jean Adams said...

I agree with Timmy. It is a very cool painting and gives an unusual glimpse into what a man of his sort might have thought about himself and the world around him.

Two things stand out for me though. I'm not sure how many people know this, but while the Mayflower held very working-class Americans, the Puritans were a bit of a cultural and educated elite. That he might have painted even a decent portrait and penned a poem speaks to that. (I am no judge of paintings or poems, but at least neither look like they were done by a five year old.)

Also, I don't know much about the Puritans' religion, but perhaps like a lot of Christian denominations, salvation is found in belief. He might have imagined only glory after death because his beliefs assured him that that was God's promise.

Pauline said...

Truly some excellent observations, Mary Jean. Your points are absolutely worth thinking about in connection with a lot of New England art of the period, not just Captain Smith's lovely self-portrait.

Thank you so much for taking the time to bolster the level of information available here at Triple P. I honestly appreciate it.

Blue Lou Logan said...

I would not want to sail under this man. The wrath of the self-righteous and the gloom of the puritanical? Devil and the deep blue sea, indeed. Makes being shot in the leg by Teach sound pleasant...

Pauline said...

I could not agree more, Lou.