The present work depicts Mary Sargent Potter (b. 1878), the daughter of Sargent’s
cousin, Charles Sprague Sargent VI, a distinguished horticulturist and professor at
Harvard. Mary became the wife of Nathaniel Bowditch Potter, a Harvard-trained
physician who specialized in the treatment of infectious diseases, in 1908.
Apparently a study for Sargent’s 1924 watercolor, Rainy Day on the Deck of the
Constellation (private collection), the present sketch captures Mary in the same pose and
in the same fur-collared coat and cloche hat she wears in the larger composition. There,
Mary sits next to her sister Henrietta on board the Constellation, a 106-foot yacht owned
by Herbert Mason Sears.
Sargent also produced two charcoal portrait drawings of Mary Potter in 1921 (private
* Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray, John Singer Sargent: The Complete Portraits
vol. III: The Later Portraits (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2003), p.