The Museum will close at 2:00 p.m. on December 5 and will be closed all day on December 6, December 24 and December 31.

BENJAMIN BLYTH (1746–1787)

Benjamin Blyth was born in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1746 and was one of the best known and most successful portraitists on the North Shore from the mid-1760s through the early 1780s. While Blyth sometimes worked in oil, his preferred medium was pastel. He found a ready clientele amongst wealthy shipowners and merchants and his depiction of Captain John Somes and his wife Anna is typical of his work.

Benjamin Blyth (1746–1787), Portrait of Captain John Somes (1745–1816), c. 1780. Pastel and paper mounted on canvas. Gift of Mrs. Ranch from the Estate of Josephine Dolliver, 1959 [Acc #1596] Benjamin Blyth (1746–1787), Portrait of Elizabeth Rogers Low (1764–1810), c. 1780. Pastel and paper mounted on canvas. Gift of the Estate of Elizabeth Alling, 1982 [Acc #2333.3]

John Somes (1745–1816), shown in a dark jacket with large buttons and a lacy white shirt with a high collar, was born in Gloucester in 1745, a son of Abraham and Martha (Emerson) Somes. He served as commander of the privateer Swallow during the Revolutionary War, was the first president of the Gloucester Bank (founded in 1786) and a state representative. Somes kept a tavern in Gloucester's Harbor Village during the immediately after the Revolution. The undertaking earned him the nickname "Old Toby," a reference to a mug typically used for ale that was modeled in the shape of a stout old man, often with a tri-cornered hat.

Captain John Somes married Anna Dolliver (1755–1846) in 1780 and sometime around then the couple had their portraits done by Benjamin Blyth. Anna and John had no children; following Anna's death this pastel portrait of John descended through the Dolliver family until, in 1959, it was donated to the Cape Ann Museum. Sometime during the first half of the 19th century, Fitz Henry Lane painted a copy of Blyth's portrait of Captain Somes, the whereabouts of which is now unknown.

The two portraits are on view in the Cape Ann Gallery.

(above, left) Benjamin Blyth (1746–1787), Portrait of Captain John Somes (1745–1816), c. 1780. Pastel and paper mounted on canvas. Gift of Mrs. Ranch from the Estate of Josephine Dolliver, 1959 [1596]. (above, right) Benjamin Blyth (1746–1787), Portrait of Elizabeth Rogers Low (1764–1810), c. 1780. Pastel and paper mounted on canvas. Gift of the Estate of Elizabeth Alling, 1982 [2333.3].