One of the occasional issues I have to face is learning that the donor’s information about their artifact may not be accurate. It is not unusual to have a little confusion over an exact age or perhaps a question about the chain of provenance. However, with this artifact, it was a question of who was the subject of the portrait.
If you live in Orange, you either have seen or been inside of the President Madison Inn, formerly the James Madison Hotel that opened March 21, 1928. This once luxury hotel changed hands several times, eventually becoming a home for adults until sold to the Paul Stefan Foundation. It was while the building was the James Madison Hotel that this portrait hung in the lobby alongside a portrait of James Madison. The portrait was there when Fred and Welford Sherman purchased the property until selling it in the mid-1950s. At that point, the James Madison portrait was reclaimed by its owner in Charlottesville and the portrait of the lady in question was loaned by Fred Sherman to the James Madison Museum (1977). Just last October, Lula H. Sherman donated the portrait and a Flemish Revival library chair from the hotel to the museum.
The portrait was painted by Thomas Emile Dodameade (also Dodamead; 1893-1853) of North Carolina, who was most active in the1920s and 30s, in North Carolina. Not much biographical information has been found on Dodameade to date, however, he was commissioned by the National Society of Colonial Dames in Tennessee to produce several portraits. Portraits painted by Dodameade of deceased persons of prominence were often based on etchings/drawings or old photographs if available, which brings us to this portrait purported to be of Dolley Madison. Could the use of black and white renderings be the cause of the golden brown hair and blue-green eyes - or, is this portrait of someone else?
Compare the portraits below of Dolley Madison and Anna Payne Cutts. They were painted from life by Gilbert Stuart. Dolley has black hair and blue eyes, while Anna has red hair and brown eyes. Yet, it appears to be Dolley's jaw line with Anna's eye shape.
Who do you think the artist painted? Dolley Madison or her most beloved sister, Anna?
(The images of Dolley and Anna courtesy of the Encyclopedia of Virginia,