Portrait of Thomas John Chew
This unsigned oil on canvas portrait of Purser Thomas J. Chew, encased in a carved gilt frame, was likely painted around 1820. As a well-paid commissioned officer, Chew’s position and personal investments afforded him the financial stability and social status to commission a portrait of this size.
Chew sailed on USS Constitution at the beginning of the War of 1812, and was on board when the ship captured HMS Guerriere on August 19, 1812. As purser, he was responsible for keeping the ship’s pay and muster rolls, accounting for provisions, selling clothing and non-ration items to sailors, and keeping detailed account books. Chew resigned from the U.S. Navy in 1821, around the time that this portrait was created.