Willennar Genealogy Center’s collection is full of Throwback Thursday potential, so let’s get our #TBT on!
We come across a lot of names in our work at the Willennar Genealogy Center, names in newspaper articles, graduation programs, letters, and so on. But the earlier in DeKalb history these names appear, the less likely it is we’ll ever have faces to go with them (or vice versa!)
Luckily, this is not always the case. In fact, sometimes, we may even get a good story thrown in with a photograph—or in this particular instance, a portrait.
Thanks to the Smith family, we were recently able to photograph this portrait of Judge Egbert Benson Mott, which had been recovered by the late DeKalb County Historian, John Martin Smith. The painting is life-sized, and used to hang up above the mantel at the Greenhurst Country Club.
There is, however, a little bit more to the painting than meets the eye. First, it was painted several years after his death in 1865, on commission by his youngest son, Grenville Mott.
In a letter written from Grenville in 1879 to his mother, Mary Winterbottom Mott, he expressed his determination to have a portrait of Egbert made in order to fulfill Mary’s promise “to the Bar-Association of DeKalb Co., and present them with the picture of father which they asked for.”
He commissioned an artist in Boston to make a portrait based off of a photograph which Grenville had of his father—a photograph he did not particularly want to immortalize as a painting, apparently.
In his letter to Mary, Grenville writes:
“Unfortunately, there is no picture of father extant which I would wish perpetuated of life size to be gazed up on by his successors on the bench perhaps a century or two hence. If, at the time he had his picture taken, he had had his hair and beard carefully trimmed and brushed and had donned a low buttoning best, it would have been all right.”
So how do we have the painting featured at the top? In the end, Grenville requested the portrait artist to “amend the defects hinted at above,” and the painter obliged.