HIS EXCELLENCY ARTHUR DOBBS ESQ.
Engraved by James McArdell (c. 1729 – 1765)
After a painting by William Hoare (1707 – 1792)
1750 – 1760
HOA 17 3/4”, WOA: 13 1/2”
Gift of Frank L. Horton (acc. 2024.186)
Arthur Dobbs (1689-1765) was appointed governor of North Carolina in 1753. Printed portraits often expressed intent and or conveyed information in subtle ways, such as through imagery. Seascapes were used as symbolic devices in portrait backgrounds to suggest personal characteristics of the sitter such as mercantile interests or an expanded world-view. In Dobbs’ portrait the seascape with the ship sailing in the opposite direction from the sitter is indicative of his decision to venture across the Atlantic.
Dobbs clearly regarded his post as governor of North Carolina as an important position. Not only was he identified by his new title at the bottom of the print, but more importantly, he chose to be viewed holding a copy of a map identified as North Carolina. Portrait poses of this period generally conformed to a uniform set of conventions. Arms or hands resting on tables often suggest solidarity, while documents or papers reflect the specific interests of the sitter. In Dobbs case, the map that he was holding not only referred to his position as governor, but it also symbolized power and intellect. The globe on the table in the background reinforced Dobbs’s world-view. In fact, long before Dobbs ventured to America he made attempts to expand colonial trade and to promote settlement.