Thursday, November 01, 2007

November 2007 - Research and Additions

Although acquired in 2001, this miniature has sat in the collection as an unidentified sitter, even though it was known he was wearing the Victoria Cross.

However, through the recent acquisition of a specialist book titled "The Register of the Victoria Cross", it has now been possible to identify him from his uniform and medals.

The sitter is Lieutenant-Colonel the Hon Augustus Henry Archibald Anson VC (1835-1877) a son of the Earl Of Lichfield. Anson was awarded the Victoria Cross for his courage at the Relief of Lucknow at the time of the Indian Mutiny on 16 November 1857, when 24 Victoria Crosses were won on a single day. Thus it is now almost exactly 150 years to the day since Anson was awarded his Victoria Cross.

The relief is commemorated in a famous oil painting, at the National Portrait Gallery in London, titled "The Relief of Lucknow", the central portion of which is shown here.

Researching the miniature has determined that Anson is one of the sitters in the oil portrait, as are four other winners of the Victoria Cross during the battle, even though the NPG records do not seem to fully identify all the sitters in the oil.

Although not in the category of a Victoria Cross, which sell for an average of GBP150,000, this miniature is very rare and is now perhaps the earliest known contemporary portrait of a winner of the Victoria Cross wearing his medal, as it would have been painted around the time of Anson's marriage in 1863. For more see Unknown - portrait of The Hon Augustus Henry Archi...

Unusually, all four miniatures now added are signed. More often it is necessary to make an attribution to an artist.

Now included in the European section of the collection is a miniature of a young lady in a white dress by the highly regarded French artist Daniel Saint (1778-1847) whose miniatures are included in many of the major art museum collections around the world.

This example is one of his later works probably dating to around 1840 and Schidlof comments on such works, "Later (Saint) painted very broadly with a magnificent sureness and a pure and pleasant colouring."

The sitter is unknown, but looks very similar to Madame Edouard Julien who features in a miniature by Saint which is included in the Louvre Museum collection. For more see Saint, Daniel - portrait of a young lady in white

A fortunate acquisition by public auction for the American section of the collection is this 1844 miniature portrait of a man by Moses B Russell (1810-1884) which is from the period when he is regarded as having painted his best portraits.

The term fortunate is used, as the cataloguer of the auction mistakenly read the signature as "M B Rupere", instead of "M B Russell".

This was due to Russell using the antiquated version of "fs" when signing his name, instead of the now current form "ss". Thus most other collectors did not bid on the portrait.

One's natural instinct is to accept the accuracy of a vendor's description. Often such descriptions make claims about a miniature which are extravagant, such as claiming a decorative copy signed "Cosway" is by the important British artist Richard Cosway.

More rarely, such as in this case, the actual artist is more important than the name attributed to the work in the description. For more see Russell, Moses B - portrait of a man

As can be seen in the attached comparison, the signature is very similar to another signed and dated miniature by Russsell in this collection, which was acquired a few months ago, see Russell, Moses B - portrait of a young lad

Miniature portraits of a sitter with a pet are rare, so this early 20C American miniature of a young lady with her dog is unusual.

From memory, the only other miniature in the collection that could be said to depict a pet is one of a family group where one child has a butterfly on a string, see Unknown - portrait of a Italian family However, it is conceded it is perhaps a little difficult to regard a butterfly as a pet.

The portrait is signed "E B Underwood 1904" for Ethel B Underwood (1874-?), a little known American artist of the early 20C, although she did exhibit at the Third Annual Exhibition of the American Society of Miniature Painters in New York in 1902.

The dog is of the breed then known as a King Charles Spaniel, but now known as a Cavalier King Charles spaniel since the breed was varied in the 1920's.

Although virtually unknown, Ethel Underwood was obviously a capable artist as she has portrayed the hands of the sitter, jewellery, and dog with considerable skill. For more see Underwood, Ethel B - portrait of a lady with a dog...

The fourth new addition to the collection is a 1945 miniature of Miliza Korjus painted by the 20C American artist, Lillian Reubena Deane (1880-1972). Lillian Deane, who seems to have called herself "Miss Ruby", was a competent artist who was quite capable of painting faces as proved by her 1900 self portrait which is in this collection, see Deane, Lillian Reubena - portrait of herself

However, from the way she has composed this miniature and also a 1929 portrait of Isobella Mendez, it seems Deane was more concerned with capturing the colours and texture of the costume of the sitter, with the face itself becoming more of a support to the painting of the costume. See Deane, Lillian Reubena - portrait of Isobella Mend...

Miliza Korjus was a noted singer (1912-1980) who played a leading role in the 1938 film called "The Great Waltz", which was the story of the life of the composer Johann Strauss. For more see Deane, Lillian Reubena - portrait of Miliza Korjus...

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