Artist: Attributed to Washintgon B. Cooper, Nashville, Tennessee (1802-1888)
Year: 1850

Medium: Oil on canvas

Frame not original
Size: Height - 29.5", Width - 24.5"
1994.03.03 EL On loan from the Noel family

This portrait of Joseph A. S. Acklen, Adelicia Hayes Franklin Acklen's second husband, is attributed to Washington Bogart Cooper. Acklen is painted in a frontal pose wearing formal attire and a Scottish tartan draped over his left shoulder. Claiming Scottish heritage was most fashionable during the 19th century after Queen Victoria purchased Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland in 1852.1 Acklen is painted using chiaroscuro, a technique developed during the Renaissance in which the background is very dark and the focal points are contrastingly bright. The artist has chosen to highlight Acklen’s face, specifically his forehead, and also his chest. This is indicative of the sitter’s intelligence and discernment. His furrowed brow and pursed lips give the appearance that he is preoccupied or that his mind is busy elsewhere. These attributions prove factual in that Acklen was a successful businessman and manager to Adelicia’s inherited plantations throughout the South. Acklen was an attorney and a veteran of the Texas Revolution, but gave up his law practice to manage the family businesses. A lucrative headman he proved to be, claiming he was possibly the richest man in Louisiana to a U.S. naval commander during the Civil War. Unfortunately he fell ill on one of the family’s Louisiana plantations and died in 1863.


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Belmont Blvd & Acklen Avenue 

Nashville, TN 37212


1900 Belmont Blvd

Nashville, TN 37212


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The architecture of Belmont Mansion makes it one of the most significant homes of 19th century Tennessee.

Sold by the Acklen family in 1887, the house went to a developer who began one of Nashville’s early suburbs.

It was then purchased by two women who in 1890 started a college which evolved into Belmont University. Today the Belmont Mansion Association, which was formed in 1972, owns the collection, runs the museum, and shares this unique story of 19th century Nashville with visitors from far and near.

Photos by Ed Houk