Connecticut State Library
Governor Rowland's Portrait
On November 23, with no formal ceremony, a portrait of former Governor John G. Rowland was hung in Memorial Hall as part of the Museum of Connecticut History's gubernatorial portrait collection. The portrait by R. H. Sibold had originally hung in Eolia, the mansion at Harkness Memorial State Park but had been taken down and stored when Governor Rowland resigned. Once the State Library learned of the portrait, efforts were made to acquire it for the collection. The decision by State Librarian Kendall Wiggin to hang the portrait evoked a range of responses, not all favorable to the decision. The State Library is not responsible for commissioning or funding portraits of former governors. In the past they have been funded by the Legislature with the completed portraits ceremoniously presented to the State Library.
Since a portrait of Governor Rowland existed and was in the State's custody, and the portrait was of similar size and style to the other portraits, Wiggin deemed it appropriate that it should be hung in Memorial Hall. For Wiggin the portraits are part of the historical record and Museum visitors should be able to see what a governor looked like -no matter what their record while in (or out) of office. The only reason 13 governor's are not represented in Memorial Hall is because no authenticated likenesses have ever been found.
The State of Connecticut officially embarked upon the acquisition of works of art in 1800 when the Legislature commissioned a portrait of George Washington from the Philadelphia artist John Trumbull. Today that portrait hangs in the Old State House where it is on loan from the State Library. In 1830, a likeness of former governor and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wolcott, Jr. was presented to the State and hung in the State House in New Haven.
By the mid-nineteenth century the State had acquired portraits of numerous former governors and lieutenant governors, including some of the colonial period. It has become a custom of the Legislature to appropriate funds to have portraits made of governors after their departure from office. Around 1901, the practice of using metal name-plates which bear the name of the Governor and the dates of his administration was begun.
The collection of Governors' portraits resided in the State House until 1878, when the current State Capitol building was constructed. In 1910, the State Library was completed and the museum's Memorial Hall became the repository of the collection.
Among the artists whose works are represented in the portrait collection are Ralph Earle, George Wright, Charles N. Flagg, Deane Keller, and Herbert Abrams.
Today seventy-two portraits are on public display.
Picture of Portrait of former Goveror John G. Rowland