Review of 2006

At year end, it seems appropriate to review progress during 2006, when the aim for the year had been to improve the average quality within the collection.

A total of 47 miniatures, being those appearing in this Recent Additions Gallery up to December 2006, were added to the collection in the 13 months from and including December 2005 (but excluding those described as revisions). The additions comprise 24 American, 19 European, and 4 British miniatures.

It was fortunately possible to keep the average cost of the 47 miniatures below $500, and thus in line with the average cost of previous years. This was pleasing as some good artists and sitters were added. Maintaining a constant average has been a good discipline in seeking additions, as it is so easy for one's eye to be bigger than one's wallet.

While there is nothing special about a target below $500, one aim of displaying this collection is the hope that it does demonstrate that one can assemble in a single year, an interesting collection of original art at a cost no greater than what some wealthy collectors are willing pay for a single limited edition print, or even a single miniature portrait by John Smart!! I suspect some purists would rather have a single John Smart miniature, but I am convinced they would have not had as much fun in building their collection.

Thus hopefully, this review will be an encouragement to potential new collectors of miniatures. A low average cost helps to make it fun to try and do well, given a limited budget. To assist with the budget, a significant part of the funding has come from selling items out of the collection, where it was felt this would enhance the overall collection.

Of the 47 miniatures, 33 are either signed or attributable to specific artists. In hindsight, this is a pleasingly high proportion. The other 14 were chosen because they were unusual or good quality examples. There are also several very interesting sitters. In the future, there is likely to be a greater focus on named sitters, as there is much satisfaction in researching them and seeking items relevant to their life, as with the postage stamps incorporating the portrait of Silas Wright.

The knowledge additions would be displayed in this Gallery has been a good discipline in deciding whether potential additions could pass the test of improving the average quality.

Some visitors may feel this test has not always been achieved. However, in defence of the additions, an aim is to develop a reference collection, particularly of American miniatures, with a bias towards signed portraits, and thus a need to include works by lesser artists.

On several occasions during the year, it seemed that there would be nothing affordable or interesting enough to acquire during a particular month, but something affordable usually turned up in the end.

Overall the year is regarded as much more successful than was anticipated a year ago. As a consequence, it is felt at this point that it may be difficult to make quite as much progress during 2007.

December 2006 - Additions

December saw the addition of several miniatures, together with some items relating to Governor Silas Wright of New York.

There is a British miniature of Colonel O Menzies wearing Mayoral robes, by Augusta Kate Critchton, an artist born in India, but who appears to be previously unrecorded. Research has confirmed that Colonel Menzies was Mayor of Ealing, London in 1904/05 - for more see Crichton, Augusta Kate - portrait of Colonel Menzi...

An intriguing American miniature is of Jane Bretney Lanier Washington, the wife of William Lanier Washington. Jane Bretney Lanier married twice, firstly to Powhatan Bolling Cabell, a descendant of Pocahontas, and secondly to James Barroll Washington, a great-great-grandnephew of President George Washington. Thus she provides a marital link between the most famous American male and the most famous American female. The portrait is by an Italian artist Pia Galli. For much more about Jane see Galli, Pia - portrait of Jane Bretney Lanier as there is also a connection to the Battle of Harper's Ferry, General George Custer, and in the view of some commentators, a 20C conman !

The second American miniature of a girl with flowers, is by Helene Toerring who was born Helene Kunze, in Iowa in 1870 - for more see Toerring, Helene - portrait of a youg lady

The Silas Wright items support the miniature by Alonzo Chappel in the collection at American Miniature Portraits - 1: Chappel, Alonzo - portrait of ... Silas Wright was Governor of New York.

The two items are an original copy of a march composed for his inauguration entitled "Gov. Wright's Grand March" and a set of Customs Fee stamps with his portrait on that were issued in 1887.

November 2006 - Additions

During the month four portraits were added into the collection, from four different countries.
The French one is unsigned, but unusual in that it depicts a family of five including a baby. Miniatures of families were more expensive than for a single person, as painters often charged the same amount for each head in the overall portrait.

The miniature of three girls is American and signed by Etta L Wiedhopf, who also signed Etta L Wiedhoff. The girl in the centre is Joan Campbell.

The miniature of the old lady is by Charles Foot Tayler and dated 1820. It is unusual in that there is already an identical portrait by the same artist in the collection. This happened when an artist was requested to paint several versions for different members of the same family.

The military portrait is a German one on enamel and is by Adolf Helzel of Berlin. He owned a porcelain painting factory. The sitter is not known, but is wearing many decorations. (The images of the Tayler miniature and the German one are both affected by scanner glare.) 1182, 1185, 1186, 1187

October 2006 - Revisions

Research into items within the collection is an ongoing process, with many additions and amendments to descriptions being made every month. However, it does seem appropriate to mentions major revisions through the Recent Additions Gallery. Three examples are shown here.

Firstly, there is a portrait of a baby in the American 2 Gallery that was previously unattributed, but is now believed to be by John Carlin.
Secondly, there is a portrait of a young man which was previously in the British 2 Gallery as by an unknown artist, but has now been moved to the American 1 Gallery, as it is believed to be by Raphaelle Peale.
Thirdly, there is a family group of nine portraits by Otto Eckardt of Dresden. These are shown in the European Gallery, but will now also be added into the American 20C Gallery, as they are of American citizens. The family concerned is the Marmet family and quite a lot of information has been found out about them. There had been a suspicion that the miniatures must have been painted from photos sent over to Germany, but until recently, no evidence for this practice had been found.
However, the Spring/Summer 2006 edition of the NYHS Journal comments on the Peter Marie Collection of Miniatures and in particular a contemporary view expressed in 1903 that "some of the miniatures did not even qualify as art, as they were not originals but paintings copied in Europe from photographs taken in the United States."
As an aside, this collector disagrees with that definition which attempts to exclude this type of miniature from being classified as art. Many miniatures by important artists from the 17C, 18C, and 19C are miniature copies of large oil portraits. Examples of these are works by William Birch, Henry Bone, and Henry Pierce Bone who all painted in enamels, but there were others who painted on ivory or other surfaces.
The narrow view of 1903 quoted above would seem to exclude these miniatures from being regarded as art as they are "not originals". Such an extreme view would also exclude photograpic and other art prints from being defined as art, whereas they are now regarded as collectible art.

October 2006 - Additions

October additions are all American miniature portraits. An unsigned portrait of a man identified on the reverse as Henry Carvill 1825. This appears to be American, but may possibly be British. Also three Edwardian portraits on ivory of society ladies. They are signed C Wiltschek, A Munn, and Williams. The one by C Wiltschek is identified as F N Collins. The collection already contains two portraits by Charles Wiltschek and one by Williams, but A Munn is a new artist for the collection.

To enhance the collection, items associated with artists and sitters are also acquired when the opportunity permits. In October associated acqusitions include two original letters relating to the portrait of David Ryerson acquired last month, an early photographic slide of the Vanderlyn portrait of Aaron Burr which supports the portrait of Aaron Burr included in the American 1 Gallery, and a rare 1833 first edition of a book called "The Persecuted Child" written by the author Ann Tuttle Jones Bullard, which supports the portrait of her also included in the American 1 Gallery.

September 2006 - Additions

September saw four miniatures added to the collection, three American and one Italian.

The American miniatures are a portrait of Mrs W M Osborn of Buffalo NY at her knitting, painted by Gerald Sinclair Hayward in 1922, and an important portrait of David Ryerson of Newton NJ, painted by Nathaniel Rogers.

As is generally the case, any additional information about a miniature appears in the relevant gallery within this collection. Thus for more information about David Ryerson go to Rogers, Nathaniel - portrait of David Ryerson
The sitter and artist for the third American portrait are unknown, but the sitter is believed to be of Brigadier-General rank, probably in an American state militia, although research is still continuing.
Italian miniatures are uncommon and this one of an unknown lady is by Adelaide Tresca (1846->1904).

August 2006 - Addtions

During August a portrait of a French officer has been added to the European Gallery. Although purchased as unsigned, on opening the case to clean the glass it was found to be signed "H Michel 1824". However, this is thought to be the name of the sitter, as the miniature has more recently been attributed to Pierre Charles Cior.

An attractive addition to the American Gallery is a portrait of a young lady painted around 1830. Unfortunately, neither the artist nor sitter are known. A further American addition is a miniature portrait case containing woven hair in both the front and rear window.
Both these two American cases are different in size and/or design to all other American cases in the collection.

To date, it has not been possible to locate a 19C manufacturer of American miniature cases, nor any literature on the subject. Many American chased work cases in the collection look to be superficially identical, but when compared in detail the size or the chasing work seem to be different in almost every case.

Accordingly, the possibility arises that each case was made and decorated individually, rather than being manufactured as machine made duplicates. Any informed comments on miniature cases would be welcomed.

July 2006 - Additions

During July additions to the collection include two Austrian portraits and one American.
One unsigned Austrian one is of Emperor Franz Josef and the other one of a lady is signed "Ig Karmanski 1831" for Ignaz Karmanski who worked in Vienna.
A lucky find for the American Gallery is a profile portrait of a lady in a chair by James Sanford Ellsworth. An American author observed that "the "old masters" of American folk art are: Winthrop Chandler; Erastus Field; William Prior; John Brewster; James Sanford Ellsworth; and the celebrated Ammi Phillips".

June 2006 - Additions

Miniatures added in June include three French miniatures and one British miniature.

The French ones include an unsigned one of a man with a buff waistcoat from around 1825. Previously this was unattributed, but it is now attributed to Hans Joachim Brunschweiler who rarely signed his work, see Brunschweiler, Hans Joachim - portrait of a man

The British one is a portrait of Queen Alexandra by Kate Harris and is dated 1905. This portrait is a companion piece that will go well with the portrait of her husband King Edward VII which is included under British 20C portraits. The photograph here is shown larger than the other items here, to try and depict the exquisite detail of her diamond jewellery.

The other French items are a man with a moustache by Auguste Vibert dated 1858 and a girl with a lace headdress by J M Sanz dated 1879. Sanz seems to be an unrecorded artist.

May 2006 - Additions

Additions in May 2006 included two French portraits and one American portrait.

One French one is of a young girl very similar to the work of Fragonard, although it has not been possible to make a firm attribution.

Later advice from a kind visitor to the site is that it is more likely to be a badly retouched miniature by Rosalba Carriera, who was one of the very artists to paint miniatures on ivory. Thus, even if retouched, it is quite a rarity.

A second miniature of a young lady, and painted around 1850, is signed by Francois Lafond who was active for much of the 19C.

The American portrait of two children is quite large for a miniature at 110 mm x 90 mm. It is unsigned and the sitters are unknown. Although it was acquired in the New York area, the packing inside the frame includes part of a San Francisco newspaper from January 11, 1861. It is thought to be by Thomas Story Officer who worked in San Francisco, for more detail see Officer, Thomas Story - portrait of two children

April 2006 - Additions

Additions in April included two French portraits and one American.

The French portraits are an important profile portrait signed by Charles Bourgeois and one of a man with a red waistcoat and a tricolor scarf, which is signed Bouchardy. This Bouchardy is recorded as working in Paris from 1770-1799 and may be the father of Etienne Bouchardy.

The American one is unsigned.

March 2006 - Additions

March saw three additions to the collection. An unsigned portrait of a French soldier. For more on this miniature, see Unknown - portrait of French officer

There is also an unsigned American portrait that may be by Hugh Bridport.

The third item is an unusual oil on copper miniature portrait of Adolf Hitler, probably painted early in World War II. The exterior edge of the frame on this portrait is engraved "A H", with the engraving filled with black enamel. This, together with the downward looking pose, such as an artist painting their own portrait might adopt, raises the faint possibility that it is actually a self-portrait by Adolf Hitler. In any event it may be unique as a contemporary miniature portrait of Hitler painted during his life time.

February 2006 - Additions

February was marked by the addition of several portraits. The most important is a portrait of the British Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger. It is engraved on the reverse "Rt Hon'ble William Pitt" and is believed to have been painted by John Donaldson. He was the youngest ever Prime Minister of England.

There is also a portrait of a French child signed Gobert 1817. The signature previously read as Jobert, but the signature is now believed to be that of Antoine Nicolas Martial Gobert. Research has identified his full name which is listed in Blattel only as Martial Gobert. As this miniature is dated 1817 and he was married in 1818, it pushes his likely date of birth back before the previous estimate of 1800, see Gobert, Antoine Nicolas Martial - portrait of girl...

The others are American. One is of a young lady named Elizabeth Fontaine. There is an incomplete inscription on the reverse which appears to indicate the portrait was painted by Jason Bartlett.

The other pair are front and reverse portraits in a locket type frame. Unfortunately the one from the reverse is rubbed. The frame is unusual in that it has a fixed metal divider between the front and rear. The pair of portraits have been attributed to Edward Savage.

January 2006 - Additions

January saw the addition of five interesting miniatures. Two French snuff boxes, one blue horn one showing a sitting child and the other depicting a mourning scene.

There is also a portrait of a French girl. This portrait is very well painted and is identical to a portrait by Louis-Marie Sicardi in the Wallace Collection in London. Lespinasse does refer to a second version painted by Sicardi and this may be it.

American additions were one unsigned one of a man with his hair tied back with a ribbon which is by Robert Fulton, who is more famous as the inventor of the steam powered ship.
The second of a man with a striped waistcoat is signed by Antonio Meucci, he was an Italian artist who worked in the United States.

December 2005 - Additions

December 2005 saw four miniature portraits from one family acquired together as a group and added to the collection. They comprise two portraits signed by John Henry Brown, one by Edward Heaton and one by George Lethbridge Saunders. The four ladies are from the Wharton/Fisher, Ringgold Wilmer, Geo. W Morgan, and Tessieire families and were all early citizens of Philadelphia. Subsequent research has found that the lady in the grey dress is the mother of the lady with the blue bonnet, and the grandmother of the lady without any bonnet.