MANUEL JOACHIM DE FRANCA1808–1865
Painter of portraits, and historical and religious subjects, Manuel Joachim De França was born in Portugal, either in the mainland city of Oporto or in Funchal, on the island of Madeira, in 1808. De França immigrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania around 1830. He arrived a fully-trained professional artist, and was a fashionable portraitist during the 1830s in Philadelphia, receiving many commissions. The artist specialized in romantic portraits in the English Grand Manner with elaborate backgrounds. In Philadelphia De França became friends with English-born landscape artist Joshua Shaw who founded the Artists’ and Amateurs’ Association in 1837. De França also gave painting lessons. One of his students was John Sartain–pioneer of mezzotint engraving in the U.S.–to whom De França taught figure painting in oils. Around 1842, de França relocated to Harrisburg, where he stayed until about 1844. He then moved to St. Louis, Missouri, and settled into a successful career as a portraitist in that city. Among his sitters was Henry Clay. This portrait was commissioned by Hamilton Jackson of New York, who recommended De França to Clay as “an artist of great merit.” The image can be found as the frontispiece to volume 1 of the collected Papers of Henry Clay. The artist frequently exhibited his paintings, at: the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; Philadelphia Artists’ Fund Society; Apollo Association, New York; National Academy of Design, New York; St. Louis Agricultural and Mechanical Society Fair; and elsewhere. He headed the paintings acquisitions committee for the St. Louis Fair of 1859. De França’s works are held in the collections of: the Brooklyn Museum; the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis; Kennedy Gallery, New York City; National Society of Colonial Dames of America in Connecticut; and the Virginia Historical Society, Richmond.