Preservation Long Island is pleased to announce the gift of a group of important early American portraits from descendants of the Nelson and Lloyd families of Boston and Long Island

For over three hundred years, portraits of Elizabeth Tailer Nelson (1667–1734), John Nelson (1654–1734), Henry Lloyd I (1685–1763), and James Lloyd III (1769–1831) remained in the possession of the same family that commissioned them centuries ago. Preservation Long Island is honored to be the new stewards of these important pieces of American history and to make them available to the public for the first time. This gift coincided with the launch of the first phase of the Jupiter Hammon Project, a long-term initiative that will transform how we engage future visitors to Joseph Lloyd Manor (1767) with the entangled stories of the Lloyd family and the families they enslaved for more than a century at the Manor of Queens Village on Long Island, today Lloyd Neck.

Left to right: Elizabeth Tailer Nelson (1667–1734) by an unknown artist, probably American, ca. 1685; John Nelson (1654–1734), attributed to James Frothingham after John Smibert, before 1824; Henry Lloyd I (1685–1763) by John Mare after John Wollaston, 1767; James Lloyd III (1769–1831) by an unknown American artist, 1800–50. Gift of Orme Wilson III and Elsie Wilson Thompson in memory of Alice Borland Wilson.

We are grateful to the descendants for recognizing the important work of the Jupiter Hammon Project and for giving the portraits a new, permanent home with Preservation Long Island. In gifting the paintings, the donors wrote: “After being in family care all these years, we believe that these portraits are going to the right place with you and your colleagues at Preservation Long Island, where we hope that they will be useful in your development of a deeper historical understanding and contextualization of the issues and events that swirled around the Long Island area in colonial times and later.”

This multi-generational collection of portraits is a visual reminder of the region’s colonial and early national history, but the individuals they represent reflect only a fraction of the people, both enslaved and free, who lived, formed families, and established communities on Long Island and New England during the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. There are no known portraits of Jupiter Hammon (1711–before 1806)—one of our nation’s first published Black American writers—or any of the men, women, and children the Lloyds enslaved. By interrogating the hidden history behind these painted surfaces, however, we can uncover a complex story of one family forcibly bound to another across generations.

By Lauren Brincat, Curator 
Published March 2, 2021

Navigate the exhibition below to learn more about the portraits and to explore the interwoven stories of the Lloyd family, the family of Jupiter Hammon, and chattel slavery in what would become the United States. 


Sources and Further Reading

Benton, Ned, and Judy-Lynne Peters, “The Art of Enslavement,” New York Slavery Records Index, The City University of New York (CUNY), accessed February 11, 2021, https://nyslavery.commons.gc.cuny.edu/art-of-enslavement/

Boldt, Janine Yorimoto, “Jack Custis, Race, and the Unseen in Colonial Virginia Portraits,” Uncommon Sense—The Blog, Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, August 31, 2020, accessed February 11, 2021, https://blog.oieahc.wm.edu/unseen-in-cvp/

Bowen, George Loveridge. James Lloyd II, M.D. (17281810) and His Family on Lloyd Neck, privately printed, 1988.

Johnson, Richard R, John Nelson: Merchant Adventurer, New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Lovell, Margaretta M., Art in a Season of Revolution: Painters, Artisans, and Patrons in Early America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005.