Then one day a search brought up an entry for it in the
Frick Art Reference Library which also listed it as Philip Freneau, attributed it to Copley. https://arcade.nyarc.org:443/record=b1079840~S6
But the great thing about the Frick reference was
it included an image of the portrait.
In the newspaper article from 1982, the artist doing
the bust, comparing this image and Halpin engraving said "They are the same face" this is particularly obvious
in the heavy-lidded eyes and the shape of the jaw".
However what sold me on it being Freneau
was when I juxtaposed this image next to the portrait of his mother, who was roughly the same age as her son when her portrait
They are the same face!
Ironically, Philip and his mother still lie side by side, and share a monument
across the street in their cemetery.
Now having an image in hand I would periodically search using Google's image search to see if I could find it.
Finally in 2019 I found it again- this time in the results of a Sotheby's auction.
However this time it was just listed as "Portrait of a Gentleman" and as the "Circle of John Singleton Copley".
The Auction was held in 2018, but the painting
did not sell.
I immediately contacted Sotheby's.
The person there was very helpful and I asked if they could contact the owners of the picture. It was a modest reserve and
as I actually had money back then, might have entertained buying it. However after months of trying, the Sotheby's representative
said he was unable to get in touch with the owners.
Finally in November of 2020 I went back to the Frick reference, which showed the provenance, and that it
came from the Plimpton family. After searching again I finally located a Plimpton family member who I thought might have some
knowledge of the portrait. All I had was a physical address for her in Brooklyn. So I sent a letter telling the story
of the portrait and including an image of it. I explained that I was no longer in a position to buy the portrait, and that
my wife and I had to sell our house. However if I could just get a hold of the portrait for a couple of hours, I could hang
it in my house (where it used to belong) and get a picture of it.
I sent it off and didn't hear anything for a few weeks.
Then one day I got a phone call. The caller was delighted with my letter, she remembered the
picture hanging in her father in law's house, he had a collection of portraits of authors. And she was so interested that
she said the portrait should definitely return home!
I was incredibly grateful and said the best permanent (after a visit to my wall) place for it was the Matawan Historical
Society. Especially since the Burrowes Mansion was once owned by Freneau's wife's Uncle. Then ensued months of further pandemic
exacerbated delay of Sotheby's first, locating where the portrait was, and then Plimpton's family agreeing to donate the portrait
to the Society.