Saturday, November 24, 2007

November 2007 - Research

As commented elsewhere the original task of scanning and loading all the portrait miniature images to this blog required a major effort and hence short cuts were taken with the descriptions and some of the images used were below standard. Now, as time and enthusiasm permits, the original postings are gradually being reviewed, researched, and rewritten from the initial two or three line entries.

Thus although a post against an entry in this blog may show a date from 2006, that is generally the date the item was first listed and the description and images may have been substantially expanded since that date.

One example of this is an American miniature portrait from around 1905 signed "Anna Coleman". Earlier research had concluded it was probably by the well known American sculptor Anna Coleman Ladd (1878-1939).

However, a lot more research has now been undertaken, now reaching the tentative conclusion that it is in fact a self portrait by Anna Coleman Watts Ladd. Two photographs of her taken in 1901 and 1919 were found on the Internet and from a comparison there seems to be good grounds for believing the miniature to be a self portrait.

This is obviously a very exciting conclusion, but does necessitate sighting some more early photographs of her before it can be confirmed. If it is confirmed, it will bring the number of miniature self portraits by American female artists in the collection to six.

When purchased there was absolutely no provenance with the miniature other than the signature on the front. Nevertheless, the revised description gives an indication of how much can be researched vis the Internet using search engines, such as Google and family history sites, such as .

The full and revised description can be seen at Ladd, Anna Coleman - self portrait She was a very brave lady, as during World War I she was decorated for pioneering techniques of sculpting and painting replacement facial features for servicemen who had been disfigured in action during the War. This was before it was possible to use what we now call plastic surgery.

Research has been undertaken on several other miniatures. Two more American examples are shown here. Apart from the research itself being an interesting objective, the information has made the miniatures themselves much more interesting and as a by-product would have also increased their value.

The portrait of the younger lady shown here is by Bertha Coolidge. No biography of her could be found and so it was necessary to build one up from the Internet. It can be seen at Coolidge, B - portrait of a lady

An interesting fact about her, is that the Museum of Fine Arts collection in Boston includes a miniature portrait of Bertha Coolidge painted in 1911 by Laura Coombs Hills. Unfortunately, very few of the MFA miniatures are available for view on the Internet, but for the reference see Bertha Coolidge

The one of the older lady is signed A M Claus 1919, but as the name was relatively common, I had made no progress in finding out about the artist or writing a proper description for the miniature.

This changed when I had an email from a lady telling me of an excellently researched article about May Austin Claus under the heading " The Artists of Anne of Green Gables" at Shining Scrolls Online This article discusses the artwork on the cover of the famous novel "Anne of Green Gables" which had long been attributed to May Austin Claus and her husband, but it is now believed to have been based on a portrait by a different artist.

This key advice enabled me to undertake some parallel research and write a proper description about the artist, instead of the previous two lines I had written, see Claus, May Austin - portrait of a lady

Although I do not have the time to undertake detailed research for other people, I do not mind answering a few questions. Every week I get several emailed requests for information. Provided there is a clear image of a miniature it is usually quite easy to answer a query.

This week, I think I surprised one enquirer who asked about two identified sitters she had without sending me an image, by replying to her email and including an image of the two portraits that was included in the 1900 book "Heirlooms in Miniature" by Anne Hollingsworth Wharton.

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