Friday, December 21, 2007

Annual Review for 2007

Merry Christmas to any and all visitors, I hope Santa fills your Christmas stocking with; twelve Hilliards, eleven Coopers, ten Peales, nine Copleys, eight Dumonts, seven Isabeys, six Smarts, five Halls, four Englehearts, three Rogers, two Daffingers, and a George Washington by Ramage!!!

Review of 2007
The final comment in my review twelve months ago, of 2006 was;

"Overall the 2006 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."

Like many prophecies or forecasts, that was completely wrong, so obviously I had my rose-tinted opera glasses back to front!

As the subject of one of my recent posts, Mark Twain (see View), once famously said, "The art of prophecy is very difficult, especially with respect to the future."

Progress during 2007 year, while not "earth shattering", was more dramatic than during 2006, as can be seen from the slideshow below, with nearly double the number of acquisitions; 90 in 2007 compared to 47 in 2006.

This was largely due to more than a fair share of personal buying luck and a reluctance to miss potential bargains. (If necessary, please wait for the slideshow to appear, and click on it to open.)

The slide-show shows the 90 miniatures acquired this year. They are displayed more or less in the chronological order of the sitter's costume. The attribution to artists are on a "best endeavours" basis, so it is unlikely all attributions are correct.

Quality and Top Ten Favourites
As mentioned below, there is a target average cost of no more than $500 per miniature, as a purchasing discipline and to allow as much collecting pleasure as possible. Thus the average quality is less than would apply to another collector who has a bottomless wallet.

While there is nothing special about $500, as was mentioned last year, 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!!

As previously observed, I suspect some purists would rather have a single John Smart miniature, than the 90 miniatures shown here, but I am convinced they would have not had as much pleasure in building their collection.

My favourite "top ten" acquisitions, but not necessarily in order of importance are:
- John Ramage - portrait of Garrit Van Horne - see View
- Johann Heinrich Hurter - portrait of I N S Allamand - see View
- Walter Robertson - portrait of a lady "C V" - see View
- Princess Amelia - portrait of King George III- see View
- Nathaniel Rogers - portrait of a man in a chair - see View
- Moses B Russell - portrait of a young lady - see View
- Moses B Russell - portrait of a man - see View
- Daniel Saint - portrait of a young lady - see View
- Alessandro Curion - portrait of a family - see View
- Mira Edgerly Korzybska - portrait of three sisters - see View

This list is subjective, as it does excludes miniatures by other good artists.

Research Favourites
Being a private collector enables one to be a "magpie" and buy, (cost permitting!!), whatever appeals. Thus there are all grades of miniatures, some being acquired more for the story behind the sitter, rather than for the artistic quality. Nevertheless, there is an underlying aim to gradually improve the average quality.

The most interesting to research have been;
- Thomas Hargreaves - portrait of Esther Watson Tobin - see View
- Princess Amelia - portrait of King George III - see View
- Unknown British - portrait of John Williams - see View
- Unknown British - portrait of Rev Bryan Faussett - see View
- John Ramage - portrait of Garrit Van Horne - see View
- Saint-Memin - portrait of Christopher Grant Champlin - see View
- Richard Morrell Staigg - portrait of Colonel Winchester - see View

Plus new research on prior year acquisitions:
- Unknown - portrait of Hon Augustus Henry Archibald Anson - see View
- Anna Coleman Watts Ladd - self portrait - see View
- Alta Eliza Wilmot - portrait of Mark Twain - see View
- Unknown American - portrait of Nathaniel Gilman - see View
- Riviere, Annette Louise - portrait of Nora Selina Dobell - see View
- Schenley, Henrietta Agnes - portrait of Henrietta Araminta Monck Browne - see View

However, dozens more have had research notes added during the year

Related Items
Apart from miniatures there were several interesting items acquired which were associated with sitters or artists.

One example is this rare book "Louisa Ralston" written by Anne Tuttle Jones Bullard, who is a sitter in a miniature within the collection, see View The wider collection now includes original volumes of four books written by her.

Cost of the Investment
All items were acquired from dealers or at public auction. An average cost of under $500 per miniature has been mentioned as a preferred guideline to stretch a limited budget.

I felt sure that guideline would be breached this year, as two miniatures each cost more than $2000 and others cost over $1000. The most expensive was the young lady signed by Moses B Russell, which cost $2300.

On working it out, the average cost of a miniature across the portfolio was $435, and I was surprised it was so far under the $500 guideline. (However, I can imagine other collectors might say; "I am not surprised, given some of the rubbish he purchased!")

From a personal point of view, variety is better than pure quality, as there is a lot more pleasure from buying and researching miniatures, than in attempting to invest a similar amount in the sharemarket (or for that matter, in sub-prime loans!!). And, anyway, collecting is a hobby and is supposed to be fun.

Any mathematicians reading this blog will have already calculated 90 times $435 as a total cost of around $39,000 which proves my shopaholic tendencies.

Budding art investors reading this blog, who wish to reach their own opinion on the success or otherwise of the acquisition strategy, can do so by working through the slide-show and attributing values to the items in the portfolio. (However, if the answer is a negative, please do not tell me!!)

Funding has come from disposing of miniatures and from savings, thus baked beans on toast continues to be on the menu. Like any other person terminally affected by the collecting bug, it is impossible to resist opportunities if they present themselves, even when there is a desire to avoid encroaching on savings.

As for the market outlook for portrait miniatures in 2008; "Who knows?". I have felt it was a little softer at the lower levels in 2007, compared to 2006, perhaps due to some sub-prime nervousness, and the Dow currently off its peak.

In contrast, at the top end of the market in 2007 there were some remarkable sales, including those mentioned in recent posts; Oliver Cromwell, Queen Elizabeth, and John White! Twelve months ago, who would have ranked White with Cromwell and Elizabeth?? However, they do reflect the rarity and uniqueness of certain items, especially for important sitters.

The other morning I heard Fox News suggesting that purchasing art was a positive alternative to investing in shares at the current time. However, their comments revolved around investing in new and emerging artists. That is something that is even more frightening to me than the sharemarket.

Personally, I expect to find it harder to make valuable acquisitions in 2008, but will hope to find some miniatures that are interesting to research.

My own New Year's Resolution is; "Buy Less and Sell More", but I recognise that as an obsessed collector I can rarely let an opportunity pass by.

Website/Blog for 2008
A continuing aim is to try and maintain this as a user-friendly website/blog.

Few Internet activities are more frustrating than accessing museum and auction house websites which are slow to respond, especially when one is accustomed to very fast downloads from both Internet auction websites and Google searches.

Some of the major live auction houses are dreadful in this respect and if any of them happen to read this, they should note that slow responses are very much a disincentive to bidding. So much so to me, that I now rarely visit their websites.

Museums and auction houses usually also have very cumbersome search facilities, which often require one to know specifically what one is looking for before searching for it. That makes general research for knowledge on a subject almost impossible.

Also with their websites, one often needs open a series of pages to see the detail. The probable reason for this, is that their systems were designed before fast download speeds became available. Whether there will be any improvement will depend upon each individual museum or auction house, but it seems unlikely in the near future.

Although this website is not purpose built and has been cobbled together, it does have a major compensating advantage of fast response times for downloads.

Once a visitor reaches the Artists and Ancestors Home page, they can see any miniature in the collection, together with all its research notes, by a single click on the relevant country Gallery, whether American 1, 2, or 20C, British 1, 2, or 20C, or European 1 and 2.

Then the complete contents of each Gallery can be scrolled through rapidly, or searched by using the Blog Toolbar at the top of each Gallery page.

Granted it would be impossible for a large museum or auction house to contemplate reaching any item in its collection, together with its image and all research notes, with a single click from its home page, but it should be possible to do so much faster and with many less clicks than they currently require.

The addition of slideshows and a search facility to the Home page impacted on its download performance. To compensate for this and enable faster downloading of the Home page, most of the background history and comment about miniatures has now been transferred to a Background Gallery.

As recent visitors have probably noticed, the Additions and Comment section has been split between 2006 and 2007 , to make these Galleries more manageable. A new "2008 - Additions and Comment Gallery" will be set up for 2008.

I am also conscious some Galleries in this blog are now quite large, with the inclusion of my verbose commentaries during the year.

The American Galleries are getting very large and need some attention. I am currently not sure whether to re-sort them completely (a major task), or just set up an American 3 Gallery for 2008.

Any readers (all two of you!) are welcome to comment on the current blog structure, (especially with criticisms!) and make positive suggestions, before I commit to changes for 2008.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

December 2007 - More from the Markets

The following auction snippets about American miniatures may be of interest.

Bonhams and Butterfields
On 29 Oct 2007 Bonhams and Butterfields offered this James Peale as lot 1026. It was described as "James Peale (1749-1831, American) Portrait miniature on ivory. Unidentified member of Bealle-Johnson-Bullein-Kelsall family dated 1785. Depicted facing right, wearing a powdered wig, black coat, vest and white cravat, signed IP 1785, within a 14k gold glazed pendant frame with glazed reverse on a 14k gold chain. Height of image 1 3/4in (4.5cm) Includes copy of letter of authentication from the Peale Family Papers, The National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Lillian B. Miller editor of 'The Peal Family Papers' attributes this miniature to James Peal for several reasons. Firstly the signature, IP with the date below matches his other known portraits. Secondly the tentative handling suggests an earlier work. Some of these early characteristics include an angularity of the face and the handling of the hair. By 1786 his brother Charles Willson Peale felt that James had sufficiently mastered his craft to leave the field of miniature portraiture solely to his brother."

Estimate: $8,000/12,000 - Auction result: Unsold

Sales by the major UK auction houses rarely include American miniatures, which is the major focus of this collection. However, in November, Bonhams of London offered a group of American miniatures and some of those are shown here.

Bonham's Lot 297 Two children and a dog by John Carlin, sold for GBP2700

Lot 298 Man, circle of John Wood Dodge, not sold

Lot 299 Four children, circle of John Carlin, not sold

Bonham's Lot 300 George Washington by Edward Savage, sold for GBP13,000

Lot 301 Man in dark coat, circle of James Peale, not sold. (subsequent advice by a kind visitor is that this is actually by Pierre Henri)

Lot 302 Man in grey coat by James Peale, sold for GBP7000

Bonham's Lot 303 Elias Vanderhorst by unknown artist, sold for GBP1100

Lot 304 John Brooks after Gilbert Stuart, not sold

Lot 305 English artillery officer by Archibald Robertson, not sold

Bonham's Lot 306 Young ensign by Anson Dickinson, sold for GBP2400

Lot 307 Young man, circle of Edward Greene Malbone, not sold

Lot 308 Young lady by Anson Dickinson, sold for GBP2000

Bonham's Lot 309 Man by Joseph Wood, sold for GBP2000

Lot 311 Man by Robert Field, sold for GBP5000

Lot 312 Lady, American school, not sold

Bonhams Lot 314 Man by Thomas Gimbrede, sold for GBP600

Lot 315 Man by Nathaniel Rogers, sold for GBP1600

Lot 316 Man by Thomas Seir Cummings, sold for GBP1800

Bonhams Lot 317 Man by George Catlin, sold for GBP1000

Lot 320 Man by Thomas Seir Cummings, sold for GBP3000

Lot 321 Young lady by Anson Dickinson, not sold

Lot 322 Young man by Thomas Badger, not sold

It is noticeable that most of those clearly attributed to artists were sold.

In all cases, buyer's commission and taxes need to be added to the hammer prices shown above.

None of the above miniatures were acquired for this collection.

An unusual miniature sold by Skinners on 29 November with a hammer price of $750 was the one shown here.

It was described as "Portrait Miniature of a Two-Star General, possibly Massachusetts, 19th century, watercolor, gouache, and metallic pigments reverse-painted on oval glass, (paint losses to background), 2 1/2 x 2 in."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

December 2007 - John Ramage Addition and Market Comment

As the year draws to the close, so do opportunities to purchase miniature portraits.

However, December has witnessed the acquisition of two American miniatures, one of them being an important miniature by John Ramage (1748-1802). It was acquired recently at a combined live and Internet auction conducted by a large auction house. It is engraved on the reverse; "Garrit Van Horne - Married to - Ann Margaret Clarkson - 16 Novr 1784".

The auction house had described it as; "A hand-painted portrait miniature brooch/pendant, the oval portrait depicting a fashionable gentleman within borders of beads and half pearls, inscribed to reverse and dated 1784. Length 4.5cm." Thus it was unattributed by them.

However, it looked like a Ramage and before the auction I also found an apparently identical miniature in the Manney collection, which is discussed further below.

Needless to say to anyone who has ever bid at an auction, the time; before the auction worrying who else might see it, during the auction worrying how high they might bid, and then during transit worrying about a safe arrival, which itself was much delayed by the Christmas rush, was very stressful.

Subsequent to the auction, I am very grateful for the expert opinion which has endorsed my tentative view that this miniature was painted by John Ramage.

The similar image shown being fig 187 in the Manney Collection, which now forms part of the collection of American portrait miniatures at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Apparently Ramage did sometimes make multiple versions of his miniatures. For more on this see View

There is often confusion over attributions of miniatures to John Ramage and William Verstille and so the auction records can be confusing for these two artists.

A genuine Ramage miniature sold at auction, shown here in front and rear views, was this c1790 miniature of Nicholas Gilman (1755-1814) which was sold by Sotheby's as lot 865 on January 18, 2003 for a hammer price of $42,000 which was double the pre sale estimate.

Although, I have not yet checked, it seems likely that this Nicholas Gilman is related to the Nathaniel Gilman, depicted in a later miniature portrait in this collection, see View

In contrast, the oval miniature of a lady shown here was offered at auction by Freemans on Nov 17, 2007 as lot 2211 - a miniature portrait of Mary Wool, attributed to John Ramage and with an estimate of $10,000/15,000.

However, buyers doubted the attribution and at the auction it sold for a hammer price of $4500. The miniature is probably by William Verstille and the auction price is commensurate with Verstille as the artist.

Although their work is similar and they are often in similar scalloped frames, Ramage was a much better artist than Verstille.

John Ramage was born in Ireland, but in about 1772 settled in Halifax, Nova Scotia. By 1775 he had moved to Boston. In 1776 he went to New York and quickly became that city's leading miniature painter, a position he held for around ten years. In 1794 he moved to Montreal and died there in 1802.

Although I have not seen it written elsewhere, I feel sure that other commentators would have observed that John Ramage was probably the American equivalent in terms of local importance, to the British artist, John Smart.

Ramage is the artist who painted the most valuable miniature portrait ever sold. This was a miniature of George Washington which sold for $1,200,000. This also made it the most valuable painting in the world of any kind, on a per square inch basis!

The comparison is a little nebulous, but has calculated the Ramage at $382,000 per square inch, compared to the next most expensive American artist, Andy Warhol at $88,000 per square inch.

Since writing the above a knowledgeable visitor has provided some interesting extra comment about Ramage and his miniatures. This can be seen along with more detail on this miniature at View

Compared to the Ramage mentioned above, there is much less certainty about the attribution of the second addition to the artist John Wesley Jarvis (1780-1840).

This is the unframed oval portrait on ivory shown here. The basis for the attribution is the similarity of style to the framed miniature on paper shown here, which is signed and dated 1807 by John Wesley Jarvis. It was recently sold by Skinners for $2000.

A close up view of the unframed miniature, see View - reveals that the hair has been built up by a multitude of fine cross-hatched lines, such as would be adopted by an artist trained as an engraver, such as Jarvis was.

Alternatively, the miniature may be by one of Jarvis's contemporaries.

The ivory portrait appears much brighter, which is partly because the framed miniature on paper was described as "toned and foxed".

Market Comment

There have been several interesting miniatures sold recently.

A major surprise was an unframed miniature by the Australian convict and artist Thomas Watling (1762->1806). It was signed and dated 1792, the year Watling finally reached the colony in Australia, after being sentenced to 14 years for forging banknotes in Dumfries.

The miniature depicts John White, the chief surgeon for the First Fleet, the 11 ships that sailed to Botany Bay in 1786 to establish a convict settlement in Australia.

After his arrival, Watling made many drawings which form the basis of the important studies of wildlife, landscapes, and the indigenous people of Australia known as the Watling Collection, now housed in the zoological library of the Natural History Museum in London. He was pardoned in April 1797, see Watling, Thomas (1762 - ) Biographical Entry - Australian ...

The miniature was offered for sale by Gorringes in England on 6 December 2007, seeking an opening bid of GBP120 and with an estimate of GBP200/400. I was tempted to leave an absentee bid of GBP550, well over the estimate to have a good chance of winning, but in the event did not bid.

To the astonishment of everyone, me included, but excepting the two bidders concerned, there were 405 bids according to the eBay auction record, which took the hammer price to GBP90,000, say $210,000 including buyer's commission.

To the best of my knowledge, this is a new record price for any miniature sold at a combined live/eBay auction.

Comparison can be made with the Watling miniature in this collection.

This second miniature by Thomas Watling is shown here in front and rear views.

Also shown much enlarged is the signature "T W", which is faint as it was difficult to scan through the glass. The "T" and "W" are formed in exactly the same manner as the example from the miniature of John White, and as if by an engraver, which was Watling's profession. However, it is conceded the initials may be meant to be "J W" or "I W".

In Foskett, there are no other obvious contenders with the initials "T W" and working around 1795-1805, which appears to be the date of this case. Foskett observes that Watling was working in Calcutta in 1803, and this was presumably after being released in Australia.

More recent research notes that he returned to Britain in 1804 and presumably continued painting there. Given the ornate frame, it seems possible this second miniature dates from after his return to Britain.

When acquired, this second miniature was attributed to Thomas Watling and the sitter was said to be related to the Macquarie family who were early settlers in Australia. The rear does include initials which appear to read "M F". However, to date, no research has been undertaken to try and find an early Australian settler with the intitials "M F", but it seems a little unlikely that the sitter has an Australian connection.

However, if any researcher familiar with early Australian history, can suggest a suitable name, I would be very grateful. Of course, one obvious Australian explorer with the initials "M F", is the navigator and cartographer Matthew Flinders (1774-1814), but this sitter looks to be too old to be Flinders.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

December 2007 - Decorative Copies and Museums

If there are portrait miniature experts with the time or inclination to read this blog, please be aware I really do welcome corrections or comment about the content.

Apart from recording my own research notes, the blog is trying to help to improve the general pool of knowledge on the subject, both for beginning and advanced collectors.

For this particular post, expert opinion will be even more welcome than usual. (Since writing this post, a knowledgeable person has contacted me and advises that they agree with most of the conclusions below, although they think the Viertel pictured is genuine.)

Every week I receive emails asking me about miniature portraits and I try to answer them to the best of my ability.

For example, sometimes a query may read; "This valuable miniature is signed and belonged to my grandmother, can you please tell me anything about it".

Many of the miniatures emailed to me are decorative copies and it is quite difficult for me to determine how best to tell people that I do not think a miniature they have is as rare or valuable as they had believed. However, I feel I need to try and tell them "like it is", otherwise there would be little point in commenting.

Most people are grateful for my time and effort in replying to them, but sometimes I do not receive any acknowledgement, which I usually take as an expression of disbelief that I have not endorsed their treasured heirloom as being by a famous artist!

Elsewhere in this blog, I have commented about decorative miniatures and fakes. In particular how signatures of famous artists were often used by copyists. However, I thought it is worth addressing the subject again, but without using the actual examples sent to me.

Instead, I have selected a museum catalogue, almost at random, and will comment on images within the museum collection. (I say almost at random, the main reason for choosing this particular catalogue being because it was small and would easily fit on my scanner!)

The catalogue is titled "Portrait Miniatures in the Royal Ontario Museum" and was published in 1981. It illustrates 50 miniatures from the ROM collection.

My intention in commenting on it, is not to expose the collection as a misrepresentation, but instead illustrate how some museum collections, although acting in good faith, can contain miniatures which are, in my opinion, decorative copies.

Therefore owners with similar decorative copies should not feel they have embarrassed themselves, by buying or owning a decorative miniature. They are in good company and it can be very difficult to be sure whether a miniature is an original or a copy.

Even so, I am aware of some people who knowingly collect decorative miniatures for the pleasure of each painting and the history associated with the sitters.

A very great advantage available to current researchers, is the ability to easily scan and exchange images over the Internet. This was not possible in 1981 when the ROM catalogue was prepared, but now allows different examples by a single artist to be compared, and critical likenesses or differences noted.

Suggested revisions to the opinions on specific miniatures as expressed below, are welcome, so I can modify the comments where necessary.

Appropriately modified, the comments may then help collectors to determine how to recognise decorative copies, why they should not necessarily rely on museum catalogues, and show how scholarly research can revise previous attributions.

Most of the examples illustrated by ROM do not show the frame the miniature is housed in and in my mind in evaluating a miniature portrait, this is the first matter to make a judgement on.

Apart from the identity of the sitter, there are three main elements in evaluating a miniature, the frame (xxx - where xxx may be 16C, 17C, 18C, 19C, or 20C), the portrait (yyy - with the same range), and the signature (zzz - again the same range).

Recently, I replied to one query with the comment; I guess that 90% of my initial judgement of any miniature is based upon the nature and date of the frame itself. That is, the shape, size, and material it is made of, the design of the reverse of the frame, and the nature of the glass covering the miniature.

Only after that point, do I look at the portrait itself to see whether the portrait agrees with the frame and supports that opinion, or disagrees with my opinion of the frame, meaning the miniature has perhaps been re-framed.

Re-framing is not rare, but it is quite uncommon. A major reason being the difficulty of finding a replacement frame of exactly the right size, especially with earlier miniatures, where there are no standard sizes.

However, it can happen where a frame is damaged or where an uncaring owner likes an old locket type case and decides to reuse it for a modern photo (!!!) - thus relegating the original miniature to a modern frame.

Thus, I adopt a strong test which says if the frame is "xxx", are there any good reasons to think the portrait is not "xxx", but is in fact "yyy".

The signature "zzz" only becomes relevant right at the end after I feel I have got the correct date for the frame and the portrait. It then acts as confirmation of an initial opinion, just as silver experts comment about silver hallmarks on "The Antiques Roadshow".

I have not presumed to comment upon plates 1 to 11 in the ROM catalogue, as my knowledge of that era is too limited, but it would not surprise me to learn that several are copies and thus not original works by the artists named in the catalogue.

However, in looking at the 39 plates in the catalogue numbered from 12 to 50, I think that as many as 20% are not by the artists nominated. I gain the impression that previous attributions have just been accepted, with some miniatures being attributed by relying on the signature alone, without evaluating the frame or the portrait.

The miniatures in question are addressed in turn. The opinions are mine, but I am very willing to correct them where expert opinion differs from my view.

Plate 16 described as "typical of the work of Antoine Vestier (1740-1824), to whom it is attributed". My reservations about this item are that the mouth is too small for the face and the quality does not look good enough compared to other works by this artist.

The reference to the mouth can be explained as follows. In every era, as in the 20C and 21C, there are big swings in fashions. With the mouth sometimes fashion is to accentuate it with lipstick, and sometimes fashion is to minimise it, perhaps as a tiny "cupid's bow". In most instances, the size of a sitter's mouth in a portrait will reflect the fashion at the date the original miniature was painted.

Thus if an earlier "large mouth" miniature is copied during a time when a "small mouth" is fashionable, the copyist will generally end up with a mouth which is the wrong size compared to the size fashionable at the time the original was painted. Less obviously, this may also apply to the size and shape of eyes and eyebrows.

Plate 20 is attributed to Augustin Ritt (1765-1799). The ROM description includes the comment; "the acquisition of one of his miniatures was a great accomplishment for the ROM". However, in my view, the frame marks this miniature as a 19C copy and the quality is far short of the quality of Ritt's work. To me the eyes are too large; overall it appears flat, whereas miniatures by top artists tend to appear three-dimensional. Many decorative miniatures were painted and housed in frames like this one.

Plate 23 and 24. ROM dates them at 1780-1790 and comments "we can safely attribute them to the French artist Villard (Villaud or Villair)". However, rectangular miniatures were rare before 1810 and the miniature is different in style to the example by Villair illustrated in Schidlof, which is in fact round.

Plate 27 is described by ROM as "painted in watercolour on ivory by John Smart." There are other Smart portraits in the ROM catalogue that look "right" for John Smart, but this one does not. The quality is not there and it looks as if it is probably a copy by another artist, of a miniature by Smart.

Plate 30 is apparently signed "el Canario" and thus attributed to Luis de las Cruz y Rios. He settled in Madrid about 1815 and died in 1850. As the costume of the sitter in this miniature dates to 1780-1790, it is unlikely to be by this artist. It gives the impression of being a laboured copy of another miniature, rather than a spontaneous original.

Plate 33 is attributed to Johann Carl Friedrich Viertel a Danish artist. The miniature is weak and does not appear to be well painted, but it is conceded that there is some resemblance to plate 1220 in Schidlof, so it may possibly be a correct attribution. Since writing this a kind visitor has commented "I think that the Viertel is absolutely genuine and typical, (as mediocre quality as most of his works)". Thus I was wrong to include it in this section, however I will leave the image here as an example of how differing opinions as to genuineness can achieve consenus through an exchange of views.

Plate 49 is attributed to Jeremiah David Alexander Fiorino (1797-1847). This also looks flat and the mouth seems too small for the period. This is on ivory, whereas he usually painted on porcelain.

It will be noted that, part from one example by John Smart, all the others of doubtful attribution are by European artists. This is a reflection that decorative miniatures were commonly created in Europe by copying originals and adding fake signatures, but much less often copied in Britain. Continental copies were often copied from monotone engravings, where the printed copy might be the reverse of the original. Hence many decorative miniatures are painted in different colours to the original and may be a copy based upon a mirror image.

Having made all these comments, I am conscious of the adage "people who live in glasshouses should not throw stones!" There are still several decorative miniatures in this "Artists and Ancestors" collection. For the most part these are gradually being weeded out and disposed of, but a few are kept for sentimental reasons! However, comments and corrections are always welcome!

Also, I should comment that it was very good of ROM to print a catalogue in the first place, as many other museums have not. ROM can also be assured they are not the only museum to have doubtful miniatures in their catalogues. It is possible ROM has altered some of its attributions since 1981, but the catalogue still circulates amongst readers who may feel entitled to rely upon the accuracy of the information within it.

In fact I will only make one criticism of ROM. That concerns a comment right at the end of the 1981 catalogue saying; "As this book was going to press, the ROM was informed of a generous bequest of 200 miniatures ... These miniatures and a number of other recently acquired examples will be published in the near future as a separate catalogue".

Well, here we are nearly 27 years later, and to the best of my knowledge ROM has not yet published the separate catalogue! If anyone from ROM reads this blog and is able to advise a publication date, I will gratefully add it here.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

December 2007 - Additions

The current year will soon start to draw to a close, but the pre Christmas lull gives an opportunity to record some additions which were a little delayed in arrival.

There are three miniatures, one each from America, Britain, and Germany. Also two art accessories which are associated with specific American miniature painters.

The first of these is a red leather miniature case from around 1825-1830. The case is not in good condition, but what is interesting is that it has a trade label for Daniel Dickinson printed on the interior silk. Unfortunately the case did not contain a miniature by the artist.

Enhanced and close up images are shown here. The inscription appears to read; "D Dickinson - Miniature Painter - at Earles - Chestnut above 5 - PHIL" . This means his studio was at Earles in Chestnut Street, Philadelphia".

From the reference at Inventory of Trade Cards at the American Antiquarian Society it appears that Earles Galleries sold looking glasses at 816 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. The gallery was operated by the Philadelphia framer James S Earle & Son. Thus it seems probable Earles were the framers for portraits and miniatures by Daniel Dickinson.

The reference to "above 5", probably means that one should go up Chestnut St, i.e. up past "5th Street".
I have not been able to confirm that Earles had more than one shop in Chestnut St, but it would appear so, as further below the Metropolitan Museum quotes a reference to Earles at 169 Chestnut St.

Earle's must have been at 816 Chestnut St for some time, as a painting by Rembrandt Peale dated to 1808, is inscribed Earles Galleries 816 Chestnut St, see Rembrandt Peale / Portrait of Edward Shippen Burd of Philadelphia ... and in 1851 there is a reference to 816 Chestnut St at The Metropolitan Museum of Art - Works of Art: American Paintings ...

Some Internet references mention that Earles were photographers late in the 19C. This was a natural development for a seller of mirrors. A further reference at Robert Cushman Butler Collection of Theatrical Illustrations mentions Earl's (sic) Galleries in 1901 but it is not clear if they were still at 816 Chestnut St.

A kind visitor has pointed out that the Metropolitan Museum holds a leather case with a printed trade label for Daniel Dicksinson. The image is not available on-line to compare with this one, but according to the Metropolitan website the wording is different, as is the address for Earles. Their example reads "D. DICKINSON/ Miniature Painter/ at EARLES/ No. 169 Chestnut St/ PHILAD [on the rock-seat of a landscape scene of putto painting a miniature]".

Another kind visitor has advised that he possesses a printed trade card for Daniel Dickinson, with the same picture and wording as the one illustrated here.

In 2007 Earles are long gone and 816 Chestnut St is now occupied by a variety store, Super Dollar City However, it seems very likely mirrors are still available from this store, 200 years after Earles Galleries were selling mirrors at the very same address!

Earles did various types of framing, including the oval Victorian fabric and hair arrangement shown here, which has their trade label on the reverse, but is not part of this collection.

Update - A kind Earle descendent has provided the following extra information. "Earle's gallery, Earl's Gallery (sometimes misspelled), James S. Earle & sons Gallery, were all names for the same gallery. The gallery moved at least 3 times, moving as their wealthy patrons moved, to more "elite" areas. I"m an Earle, and have done research on their locations (by going through old newspapers for advertising and through old Philadelphia address books) and have the auction pamphlet from when they closed down during the early part of the Great Depression.

The first Earle came to Philadelphia from England as a gilder, worked for someone else for a year and then went into his own business of framing and gilding. Eventually added "looking glasses", did indeed do photographs (many of visiting actors and actresses) and went on to become a gallery, exhibiting great artists of the time from both Europe and America. For a time, the Earles were in partnership with Sully who did the art buying and added a certain authority to the gallery. They were friends and we have a few paintings of family members by Sully in early Earle frames. I believe EG was the first to exhibit a black american artist, Tanner."

Daniel Dickinson (1795-1866) was the younger brother of Anson Dickinson (1779-1852). Daniel studied drawing in New Haven, but in 1818 he moved to Philadelphia where he worked as a portrait and miniature painter until 1846, before settling in New Haven, CT in 1847.

In the Cincinnati Art Collection there is a similar case which includes a label printed on the interior silk of a case, but advertising Daniel Dickinson's brother, Anson. This can be seen as fig 46 on page 140 of Aronson. However, the design of that case is different.

Unfortunately the wording of the advertisement has not been transcribed into "Perfect Likeness" and the image is too blurred to be sure of the wording, but it appears to read "A Dickinson Miniature ...... NEW YORK".

Apparently, Anson Dickinson used such cases between 1825 and the early 1830's. Which of the brothers was the first to use them and/or if they ordered them together is not clear.

The second item associated with an artist is a porcelain painter's palette. This belonged to the miniature painter John Ramsier. The palette was purchased at an estate sale of his son Elmer Ramsier and is accompanied by a notarised letter of authenticity.

There are several miniature portraits by John Ramsier in this collection and so he most likely used this palette when he painted those miniatures.

The American miniature was acquired from Thomaston, ME. Initially, I had hesitantly attributed this miniature to William Hudson Jr (1787-1861) of Boston who was active in Boston from 1829 to 1856.

However, a kind visitor has since told me the miniature is by Walter R Herve, who was active in Boston in the late 1820's and probably into the 1830's. Hopefully, this attributed example will now help other collectors to identify more of Walter Herve's work.

The sitter can be confidently commented upon. He is Captain Benjamin Leach Allen (1803-1865) of Manchester, Essex, MA and his family tree is well documented, with this miniature already being copied to the Allen family tree on the Internet.

He was interim Mayor of Boston in 1853 during a contested election. He is referred to as a Captain, but has not been found in the census records, presumably because he was at sea. For more about the 1853 Boston Election and to see a sampler tapestry made by his mother-in-law in 1793 go to View

The British miniature of William Pitt the Younger is by an unknown artist. The miniature appears to be copied from an engraving, itself copied from a large oil portrait by John Hoppner of around 1805.

William Pitt the Younger (28 May 1759 – 23 January 1806) was the son of William Pitt the Elder (1708-1778), who was Prime Minister of Great Britain (1766-1768).

William Pitt the Younger was the youngest ever Prime Minister of Great Britain, initially between (1783-1801) and again between (1804-1806).

Miniatures of William Pitt are uncommon, but in this collection there is another miniature of Pitt painted by John Donaldson (1737-1801) from life, when Pitt was twenty years younger, see View

More about this second miniature and the original it was copied from can be seen at View

The last of this group of additions is a miniature of an unknown lady painted by Franz Till of Dresden in Germany around 1900.

It is painted on porcelain, but may possibly be on a faint photographic base. Even so the painting technique is difficult as the pigments change colour when fired in a kiln.

Although the identity of the sitter is unknown, it is known she was a patient at the famous von Hartungen health spa in the north of Italy.

This spa was frequented by many famous people of that time including Franz Kafka and Sigmund Freud. There is more information about the spa at View