Jacob Marling


Marling was a portrait, miniature, and landscape painter, an art teacher, and a museum director. He worked along the Atlantic seaboard and, principally, in Raleigh, NorthCarolina, during the early nineteenth century. A mysterious individual whose identity is known primarily through newspaper references and business correspondencesrelating to land transactions and portrait commis sions, he studied for seven years under the artist James Cox (1751–1834) and may have spent some of these yearswith him in Albany, New York. Marling was in New York City in 1793 and in Fredericksburg, Richmond, and Petersburg, Virginia from 1795 to 1809, and later inPhiladelphia, where he is believed to have painted portraits and instructed students in art. He settled permanently around 1813 in Raleigh, North Carolina, in search of work from the area’s prospering republican citizenry.Initially, Marling served as director of the North Carolina Museum. Comprising a reading room with newspapers and literary works, this fashionable institution,located on Fayetteville Street in Raleigh, also exhibited natural and artificial curiosities, maps, and rare coins, in addition to paintings by artists (including Marling).Although he advertised his services as a portrait and miniature painter innewspapers of the period, no signed examples of his work have been located. The artist is believed to have executed several likenesses of members of the state’s legislature and other local politicians, including images of John Gray Blount, William A.Blount,and Joseph John Daniel. A pleasing landscape scene of North Carolina’s first state house is attributed to him.Jacob Marling’s wife Louisa, also an artist, worked at the Raleigh Academy, beginning in the spring of 1815 where she taught drawing and painting. Occasionally,her husband assisted her in teaching. A drawing of a bowl of cherries, signed “Marling,” has been attributed inconclusively to Jacob Marling, although it could be hiswife’s work.Jacob Marling’s most ambitious known composition is entitled The Crowning of Flora.
According to a contemporary newspaper account, Marling’s picture of 1816 presents a group of young schoolgirls from the Raleigh Academy gathered outdoors to celebrate the first day of May by crowning one of their own as “queen.”Various identifiable individuals are portrayed in this composition, including that year’s May Queen, the school’s principal, the music teacher, Mrs. Marling, and possiblythe artist.