Friday

A New Book and Additions in 2016-17



The Tansey Collection -A New Book
Recently published is another excellent book with a dual commentary in German and English, edited by Bernd Pappe and titled, Miniaturen der Barockzeit aus der Sammlung Tansey or Miniatures from the Baroque Period in the Tansy Collection, Munich, Albert Hirmer, 2016, 395pp.

This is the sixth book in a series documenting the Tansey Collection as assembled by the German-American couple, Lieselotte and Ernest Tansey. They formed the basis of their collection almost fifty years ago. It grew into one of the world's largest and most significant collections of this art form. In 2016 the collection was generously donated to The Tansy Miniatures Foundation. Sadly Lieselotte died in June 2016 but she is remembered via the collection, which is available to view by the public and celebrated in descriptive works such as this. 

This volume depicts 120 miniatures, representing examples from the Baroque period, each with a colour image and description in German and English. For those seeking a copy is available at Miniaturen des Barock aus der Sammlung Tansey | Hirmer Verlag

Artists and Ancestors Collection
In view of the outstanding quality of the Tansey Collection, it is a little disconcerting to discuss recent additions to this collection on the same page. However, it is necessary to keep a record and demonstrate that interesting miniatures can still be acquired for private collections at relatively modest cost.

Due to the time pressures of my major research project, The Lost Works of Tobias Smollett, see, The Lost Works of Tobias Smollett and the War of the Satirists miniature portraits have tended to take a back seat with very few additions in 2016-17. However, for the record they include.

Lady Elizabeth St George
Unknown - Portrait of Lady St George
The artist who painted this late 18C miniature portrait is unknown, but it is of typical "modest school" size. It may be by an Irish artist. The miniature is inscribed on the reverse:

"Lady St George - Widow of Usher, last Lord St George of Hatley - She was Miss Dominick cousin to Mr Gale; left a daughter and sole heiress, Olivia, Duchess of Leinster."

That has enabled a more precise identification of the sitter as, Elizabeth Dominick (c1732-1813), daughter of Sir Christopher Dominick (died 1743), a wealthy Dublin doctor who began the laying out of Dominick Street in Dublin. On her marriage she became Elizabeth Usher St. George, i.e. Lady St George as depicted here, and she died aged 18 on February 26, 1813. 
ds 1509


Her husband was St George St George, 1st Baron St George (circa 1715 – 2 January 1775), who was an Irish politician. Born St George Ussher, he was the son of John Ussher by his wife Mary St George, daughter of George St George, 1st Baron St George.

He succeeded his father as Member of Parliament for Carrick in the Irish House of Commons from 1741 until he was raised to the Irish House of Lords.

He was created Baron St George of Hatley St George, in the Peerage of Ireland, on 19 April 1763; this was a revival of the title held by his grandfather.

He died without surviving male issue, so the title became extinct. 

Emilia, Duchess of Leinster
In 1772 was read in the House of Commons of the Kingdom of Ireland,  "A Bill intitled an Act for ratifying and confirming certain Leases for Lives, renewable for ever, of certain Grounds in and adjoining to Dominick-street, in the City of Dublin, made by the Right Honourable Usher Lord St George, Baron of Hatley St George, and Elizabeth Lady St George, his Wife, against them, and against the Issue of their Bodies, and all Person or Persons claiming, or to claim under the Settlement made upon their Intermarriage, was presented to the House and read the first Time, and ordered to be read a second Time Tomorrow Morning."

 Their daughter Emilia Olivia FitzGerald (c1755-1798), as indicated in the inscription, later married William FitzGerald, 2nd Duke of Leinster, and had several children. 

Somewhat sadly, Emilia, Duchess of Leinster, predeceased her mother, Lady St George, by fifteen years. However, it was nice to be able to locate a portrait of Emilia and "reunite" mother and daughter here.

Unknown American Lady.
Although not a fine portrait, this American miniature is signed BHG 1901 or BHC 1901 and a good example of the period.

To date it has not been possible to identify the artist, but the miniature was purchased at auction at a moderate cost, being described as:

"This is a very fine watercolor miniature portrait of an older lady, probably English, on some kind of organic material. The painting is signed " BH. G." and dated 1901. It is completely sealed in a heavy white metal frame and a protective concave glass. The painting seems to be in perfect condition as it has been very tightly sealed inside the frame and behind the display glass."

A bonus on arrival was the discovery the case was sterling silver.
ds 1511 



Man in blue coat by George Engleheart
George Engleheart - portrait of an unknown man
This miniature portrait was described at auction only as:

"A superb portrait of a gentleman wearing a blue coat, a white stock, and a grey powered wig. Framed in a 20C gilt frame."

However, from images accompanying the listing, the portrait appeared to be by the important artist, George Engleheart (1750/5-1829) and this attribution was confirmed on arrival. It is modest sized and dates to around 1780-90.

Engleheart did sign his later works with a distinctive "E", but it is easy for his earlier works to slip though auction houses without being recognised, and be acquired for a very modest hammer price, as was the case here. ds 1513.



Sir Walter Raleigh by Samuel Percy
Samuel Percy - portrait of Sir Walter Raleigh
This wax miniature had a full description at auction as being Sir Walter Raleigh, the famous Elizabethan, but there was no comment about the artist.

However, although unsigned it is believed to be by the prominent wax miniaturist, Samuel Percy (1750-1820) the style being very similar to his other works. Up to 1786 he had made 800 portraits, but he continued to make and exhibit wax miniatures after that date.

E J Pyke records there is a wax miniature by Samuel Percy of Sir Walter Raleigh in the collection at Windsor Castle, but it is not known whether it is similar to this version. ds 1514

Jacob Interpreting the Baker's Dream
Henry Bone - Jacob Interpreting the Baker's Dream
Although not strictly a miniature portrait, this miniature in enamel was purchased at a local auction. It is painted by the important artist, Henry Bone (1755-1834). It is 195mm x 210mm so is large for an enamel miniature- apologies for the poor reproduction - the actual work is very well painted.

On the reverse it is inscribed

"Painted for the Duke of Bedford by Henry  Bone  R.A., Enamel Painter in Ordinary to His Majesty and Enamel Painter to H.R.H the Prince Regent, after the original picture in the Collection of his Grace at Woburn Abbey".

In contacting the picture curator at Woburn Abbey it was established that the original is no longer in the Woburn collection, having been sold in the early 1950's. However Woburn Abbey has retained another enamel version by Henry Bone, but on a smaller scale than this example. 

The location of the original oil is currently unknown. During the 19C the original oil was attributed to Rembrandt, but that is now discounted.

An interesting comparison is with the original squared drawing by Henry Bone, which is held in the National Portrait Gallery in London. That gives a good idea of how a miniature was copied from a large sized portrait. ds 1515













Young Man by Christian Friedrich Zincke
Christian Friedrich Zincke - portrait of a young man
On a completely different scale is this miniature portrait in enamel. At a local auction it was described as:

"Lot 310 - A 19thC finely enamelled porcelain, gold framed portrait miniature, the plain gold frame testing as 18ct. or higher, the portrait miniature of a gent wearing a blue jacket, glazed. 40mm x 35mm. Est. $180."

The auction estimate was very low, far below even the intrinsic value of the gold. However, before the auction it was realised the auction description was deficient in other, more important, respects and it was fortunately able to be acquired for roughly the intrinsic value of the gold.   

A better description would have been;

"A fine early 18C portrait miniature in enamel, from approximately 1730, by the important and prolific artist, Christian Friedrich Zincke (1683/4-1767), who was born in Dresden, but moved to England in 1706 and studied under Charles Boit (1662-1727). The plain gold frame testing as 18ct. or higher, and the miniature glazed. The unknown sitter is wearing a blue jacket and green cap, of a style popular around 1730 with artists and writers. 40mm x 35mm." ds 1517



Wednesday

Notice of Conference - November 11-13, 2016

Portrait Miniatures Artists, Functions and Collections
- International Conference at Celle Castle, Germany 

Collectors of miniature portraits should note, and attend if possible, the November 2016 conference on miniature portraits, as described in the flyer below, which gives contact addresses for any collector seeking to attend. See also Activities - The Tansey Miniatures Foundation tansey-miniatures.com/en/activities/


Saturday

January 2016 - Various additions to the collection

[NB Google is changing its procedures, so if you wish to follow this site you may need to follow their new rules] 

The miniature portraits depicted here were purchased for the Artists and Ancestors collection, but are mostly examples which had not been added into the website due to the pressure of other research. They are now added as part of a New Year's Resolution to try to get up to date!

Those depicted represent a wide range of artist skills and variation in quality, but most appealed as examples to represent differing aspects of miniature collecting. Many of them would be shunned by collectors of expensive high quality miniatures, but the range shows what is available for purchase by a collector of more modest means. They all came from public auctions and in order of acquisition are as below.

ds 1489 is an Italian lady in provincial costume, where the detail of the portrait is much finer than can be seen in the images. A kind expert in Italy sent me the printed image of a similar costume, which shows the costume comes from the region of Salerno. What looks like a signature is actually a description. It was inexpensive appealed due to the primitive, but finely detailed style

 
 




ds  1491 This fairly ordinary looking man has no great merit, He is probably French and came from a local auction along with the miniature on paper by John Smart previously separately added to the website.



ds 1490 by John Smart

















ds 1492 This miniature portrait came from the same auction as 1490 and 1491. Although not of high quality it is in a large ornate frame and interesting as it shows how artist used several pieces of ivory when they wanted to paint or enlarge a large miniature. This one appears to be an actress painted around 1820-30, and an expert on the theatre may be able to detect the role or play depicted.

The full sight size is 175mm by 120mm and to purchase a piece of ivory of that dimension would have been very expensive. Thus the main portrait is 130mm by 110mm, which is still large for a miniature. As the colours vary between the pieces, the extra ivory may have been added when it was reframed. There is no obvious signature, although it has not been opened.

ds 1493 Another miniature of no great merit, but interesting for the level of detail depicted in a harbour scene.


ds 1494 This is an early 20C or late 19C portrait of King Frederick the Great, of no great quality, but unusual as a wax miniature of him.

ds 1495 was added separately to the website. It is by the American artist Charles Willson Peale and is a portrait of Colonel Charles Pope.











ds 1496 This miniature portrait is of Henry Penny Sale, youngest son of Sir Robert Sale GCB. Although on paper, it has an interesting inscription on the reverse. A bit hard to read, but apparently:

"Henry Penny Sale, youngest son of Sir Robert Sale GCB and Lady Sale, killed by a fall in the hills near Simla, India, b. 1829, died 1851. Lieutenant in the 13th Regiment of ft.. Adjutant of his regiment, aged nearly 22. At school at [Pl.orlong]? dean near Brightom Sussex with Major General William C Stileman, a son of the late R Stileman Esq. of the [Friends]? of Winchelsea, Sussex, where his grand-parents, George and Mary Wynch lived, also Mrs Vane."

See also Henry Penny Sale 1829-1851 - Ancestry.co.uk and
Sale - Lieutenant Henry Penny - 13th Bengal Native Infantry - died 30th April 1851.
Son of Major-General Sir Robert Henry Sale, GCB (killed at Mudki 1845). Served Punjab 1848 (medal and bar).
Grave at Subathu -
"Sacred to the memory of Henry Penny Sale. Lieutt 13th Regt N.I. Adjt Nusseree Battn who died on the 30th April 1851 aged 24 years. Deeply regretted by his family and friends. This tablet was erected by his brother officers as a token of their esteem."



ds 1497 This miniature of a young lady  is housed in a red leatherette case and is unusual as it was painted in South Africa. On the reverse it is signed J. E. Ford, Cape Town, 1825. Unfortunately the sitter is not identified, but it is finely painted, and interesting as an indication that London hair and clothing fashions of 1825 were quickly repeated in South Africa.

Ford flourished 1793-1830, and Foskett notes that Schidlof mentioned two portraits by him. An officer signed on the reverse J.E. Ford, Cape Town and another signed on the reverse. J.E. Ford, 1828. Thus this one of a young lady seems to be especially unusual in being signed with both the location and the date.

   





ds 1498 This miniature portrait of a young lady is a little smaller than usual for the time, c.1815, being 50mm by 40mm.

It is by an American artist and is in what  I call a "make-do" case. That is it dates from about 1815, around the time of the war of 1812, when the Embargo Act was in place which prevented artists from getting supplies of new casework from England. Hence artist were forced to use what ever left over materials they could find to combine and produce "make-do" cases.

I have written elsewhere on how many dealers replace the cases of miniatures like this to make them more saleable, but as a historian, I believe they should be retained in their "make-do" cases, as a more honest condition and a reminder of the interesting history of events around the Embargo Act.

It was suggested her married name was possibly a Mrs Goadlow [Goodlow?] and the rear is engraved with her initials, presumably when unmarried, JWD or IWD, so there may be a faint chance of identifying her.

The artist is a puzzle, as the quality is high, but not easily recognisable. Possibilities include Raphael Peale, as the background colouring is similar to his work, Anson Dickinson, or Hugh Bridport.

The engraving on the rear of the case is not common and the tiny glass is another indication of the Embargo Act, as high quality glass was unavailable in America at the time. The brooch fitting is broken off, but is more recent, perhaps 20 years later.









ds 1499 This is another American miniature portrait from c.1820, again smaller than usual for the time, sight size 43mm by 35mm. It is a good example of an early American designed case, as a result of the Embargo Act, but still with proper materials in short supply.

When advertised it was described as "English oval framed 1770-1790, young man", but is definitely later and American, so is an indication that sellers often have inaccurate descriptions. Although the image is out of focus, the artist is perhaps Daniel Dickinson or Thomas Edwards.



ds 1500  This miniature portrait was merely described as, "Miniature Etching Of Distinguished Gentleman 19th Cent". Hence it was very cheap. However, it was immediately obvious as a Saint Memin portrait, being inscribed at the foot, "Drawn and Engr. by St. Memin, Philadd." see Charles Balthazar Julien Févret de Saint-Mémin - Wikipedia ...

With such engraved portraits it is usually possible to identify the sitter by reference to the book by Ellen G Miles which lists hundreds of examples with their images, see Saint-Mémin and the neoclassical profile portrait in America

One of the joys of collecting miniature portraits, although rarely possible, is to take an unidentified sitter and so to speak "bring them back to life". 

This one took a while to work through (thankfully his name was not Wyatt!), before being matched with a portrait of William Poyntell, who died in 1811 and was an eminent merchant and publisher. There is an extensive obituary for him in The Gentleman's Magazine, see The Gentleman's Magazine which opens:

"Sept 10 1811 Died at his house in Philadelphia, in his 56th year, universally lamented, William Poyntell, esq. late Merchant, and one of the Select Council of that city. He had retired from business several years having acquired an ample fortune, of which he merited the enjoyment by the most inflexible integrity in all his dealings and transactions with whomsoever he was engaged. Mr Poyntell was an Englishman, and his character holds forth so bright an example of usefulness and private worth, that we are persuaded we shall stand excused for entering upon it more at large. He was born at Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire, and baptized in the parish church there, April 9, 1756. ...."

He sold stationery and wall papers, there being a picture of scales sold by him at The Price of Freedom: Money Scales  and wallpaper at Stanley Y. Klos: Imlay Mansion There is a picture of his grave at  William Poyntell (1756 - 1811) - Find A Grave Memorial and discussion of his art collecting activities at  William Poyntell (1756–1811) - Springer and 'All my stained glass which I brought from Europe'

ds 1501 One sitter who was identified is in this silhouette portrait, Lord Charlemont. There was a fashion for a while of using a silhouette portrait of the sitter's face, but with coloured clothing, often for those in uniform, as here.

The sitter is the Earl of Charlemont (1728-99), see  James Caulfeild, 1st Earl of Charlemont - Wikipedia, the free ... He was well known for his love of Classical art and culture and spent nine years on the Grand Tour in Italy, Greece, Turkey and Egypt. He returned to Dublin and employed the Scottish architect Sir William Chambers to remodel his main residence Marino House, to design his town house Charlemont House and the unique Neo-Classical garden pavilion building, the Casino at Marino.
 
 
 
There is a similar image of him at  James Caulfield, Earl of Charlemont - Library Ireland together with an account of his life. And more about him with another portrait at The Armagh Election of 1753 - Craigavon Historical Societywhich is probably engraved from an original oil portrait.



ds 1502 This miniature of a young girl is believed to be American for several reasons, firstly as the reverse is solid metal and is engraved in large letters HTG, so perhaps her first name was Harriet. Solid backs on miniatures of this size, are occasionally met with in America, but practically never on British miniatures, it being 71mm by 58mm. Although it is a very similar pose to works by William Verstile or Lawrence Sully, it may be too late for either of them.

Alexander Pope






















ds 1503  Alexander Pope has become increasingly relevant to my research into the life and works of the author, Tobias Smollett, so when this  miniature portrait on ivory was offered on Ebay in 2015, as an "Unknown  Gentleman", it was impossible to resist purchasing it.

It is after  an earlier oil portrait of Pope by Thomas Hudson and is signed V.V.K.) Although after a well known portrait. The research into Smollett, his Lost Works ,and the War of the Satirists is extensively covered at  The Lost Works of Tobias Smollett and the War of the Satirists and is the main reason for spending so little time on miniatures.

ds 1504 This pressed metal portrait, probably of a clergyman, is poor quality and very cheap, but I had hoped to identify the sitter and so make him more interesting. It is also over-painted, but he remains unidentified.

However, he must have been of some significance to have a medal pressed.


ds 1505 This better quality pressed metal portrait came from the same source. It appears to be gilded brass and is a portrait of Sir Sidney Smith. An extensive account of his life is at Sidney Smith (Royal Navy officer) - Wikipedia, the free ...  There it is noted,

Admiral Sir William Sidney Smith, KCB, GCTE, KmstkSO, FRS (21 June 1764 – 26 May 1840) was a British naval officer. Serving in the American and French revolutionary wars, he later rose to the rank of admiral. Napoleon Bonaparte, reminiscing later in his life, said of him: "That man made me miss my destiny"

He was also active against the slave trade. 


ds 1506 Continuing the naval theme is this miniature portrait of Lord Louis Mountbatten by Dorothy Turton, for Dorothy Barbara Jessie Turton RMS (1900-1900s).

Men in uniform are obviously much more colourful than those dressed in drab black coats of the 19C, but what is not immediately realised, is that those in uniform take a lot longer to paint, especially when, as here, there are many decorations, and a very detailed uniform. 

The colouring of miniatures goes through fashions like many other things and this one is not as reddish as appears in the photo. The inscription on the rear reads:

Lord Louis Mountbattern, 1979, Dorothy Turton, £130, RMS, Exhibited in 1986 in The Mall Galleries, The Mall, London. 

That was a lot of money at the time of 1979, which reflects the time  that must have been spent by Dorothy Turton on the detail, but only a little different than the price it was able to be acquired at for this collection. For much more about Mountbatten who was killed in a bomb explosion on 27 August 1979, see Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma - Wikipedia This portrait was presumably painted soon after he died as a copy from this large oil.





ds 1507 This miniature portrait was offered at a local auction with no description other than being a portrait of a man.  However, he was interesting to me as I was able to read the faint writing on the reverse as reading, "F.H. Bischoff, Painted by hinself." Foskett says only of him "Bischoff, F.H. (fl. 1823-49) Of London. Exhibited at the R.A. 1823-49. His address was in 1823 was 176 Sloan Street, Knightsbridge."

This made him doubly interesting, firstly as self-portraits are always special and, secondly, the name Bischoff, as there are other portraits and items in this collection by Bischoff which were also purchased locally several years ago.

In particular in the collection there is a RA token engraved with the name of Charles Ferdinand Bischoff (1820-1898), the son of the artist F H Bischoff. Here are the front and reverse of his ivory ticket to the Royal Academy. On the front is written "Royal Academy Antique School 1768" and on the reverse "Chas Ferdinand Bischoff - Admitted 12th Dec'r 1840".





ds 1508 The final portrait for the year was not the least. For some reason the auctioneers attributed it to John Smart, but it was immediately clear it was an early miniature portrait by George Engleheart (1750-1829). The sight size is only 39mm by 33mm and it was offered in an ordinary ebonised frame. However, inside it was still in its original bracelet fitting. The miniature is from his second period 1780-95, when he tended not to sign his work and was the period of which Foskett writes, "his full powers developed, his colouring became strong, his draughtsmans hip was good and although he still used small ivories, the quality of the work was excellent."  



It is not expected to have as many additions during 2016.

Wednesday

August 2015 - A new book

An apology for the lack of new posts here, although that is not a sign of an idle computer. The research into the 18C author Tobias Smollett (1721-71) occupies me for several hours a day, and so far about 400,000 words of new research have been added to the website dedicated to Smollett. to his Lost, i.e. unrecognised, Works, and to the War of the Satirists involving Smollett, Alexander Pope, Colley Cibber, Henry Fielding, and William Hogarth, see The Lost Works of Tobias Smollett and the War of the Satirists Even so, I believe the research is still less than half complete.

In a nutshell, the Smollett Project is a huge cryptic crossword, one which seeks to determine which anonymous or pseudonymous (a/p) works published in 1737-70 were authored or edited by Tobias Smollett. For 1732-66 The London Magazine lists about 20,000 books, pamphlets, and prints, published in English, of which about half were anonymous or pseudonymous. In addition there were thousands of essays, letters, reviews, and sundry items in periodicals or newspapers. But no one has ever reviewed them, in a detailed, careful, methodical, and logical manner, looking for a/p works by Smollett, even though Smollett is regarded as one of the most prolific authors of the 18C. The process is akin to the work of an art historian who studies unsigned paintings in detail, in order to attribute an artist to the painting and/or to identify a sitter.
 
I acknowledge it will take several years until "conventional wisdom" accepts that a revision of Smollett's canon is required, but the evidence supporting all the new attributions to him has been tabled and is available for academic scrutiny. Some scrutiny has obviously started, as the page views recorded for that website are steadily rising. [I recently decided to add up page views across all my interconnected websites, including Smollett, to see what the combined total was, and was staggered to find total page views were over 750,000.] The Tobias Smollett research overlaps with many of Smollett's contemporaries and today, as part of my research into William Smellie, I came across this pithy observation by John Glaister, in his 1894 biography of William Smellie, which I cannot resist sharing!

"It is probably almost a truism to say that no man who tries to reform the existing order of things by teaching or otherwise escapes criticism, and that in most cases the amount and persistency of the criticism evoked are in direct ratio to the value of his work. This can be found abundantly illustrated in history."  

However, enough of Tobias Smollett as I have recently received a copy of a major new book on the subject of miniature portraits, which will be of more interest to visitors here.

It is another wonderful production by Bernd Pappe, drawing on the extensive and generous resources of the Louvre Museum and of the Tansey Foundation. This time it is a fantastic, detailed, and well illustrated monograph on Jean-Baptiste Jacques Augustin (1759-1832), one of the very best of French miniature painters of the late 18C and early 19C.

The book is of 384 pages, comprising 130 pages of text and notes, followed by 100 pages of full colour illustrations of Augustin's best works, and then by a catalogue of over 1200 works by Augustin, each with a small black and white image for reference purposes.

I have also included here an enlarged version of Augustin's miniature self-portrait which serves as the frontispiece, and which is simply stunning!

The image truly proves the adage that if a good miniature portrait, by a master of the art, is enlarged to life, or oil portrait size, it will not be possible to tell that it has been so enlarged.

Miniature portraits are generally treated as the "poor relations" of large oils, but in my opinion there was far more skill required for a miniature painted in watercolour, gouarche, or in enamel, than there was for an oil portrait; where any slip of the brush was easily wiped away, or else covered by a new layer of oil paint, so that x-rays can now reveal where the portraitist had changed his or her mind.  

Most of the examples depicted in the book are in public or private collections and so will never be available for purchase, but as a reference book and catalogue of the work of Augustin, the book is invaluable as a means of comparing and contrasting his work with other masters of the art of miniature portrait painting.

Thursday

February 2015 - New literary research - Tobias Smollett

18C English Literature
Apologies to patient people pondering on the past paucity of posts! I still maintain my interest in miniature portraits and am happy to continuing answering questions, but over the last year my research effort has increasingly been directed at 18C English Literature. While there remains a great deal more to do, I have now started to post the research on a new website. Click on this link to reach it:

The Lost Works of Tobias Smollett and the War of the Satirists

After reading all the evidence tabled here, it would be interesting to hear opinions on whether the website discusses what may become considered as the greatest literary discovery for many years?? So far, over 250, now nearly 300, anonymous and pseudonymous books, pamphlets, and satirical prints, amounting to over 25,000 pages of 18C literature, which have lain unresearched for 275 years, have been newly attributed to Smollett. The 25,000 pages are accompanied by discussion of previously unrecognised satires by Hogarth, Fielding, and Pope. 

If you, your friends, or colleagues have any interest in Tobias Smollett, Henry Fielding, William Hogarth, Colley Cibber, Alexander Pope, or the London Theatre in 1735-60, there will be much to interest you. The interactions between these literary stars of the 18C have revealed themselves as a fierce War of the Satirists commencing in 1737. Followers are welcome, as is anyone interested in joining in with the research! Rather than a blog/diary, it is more in the form of a book draft, but additions and revisions are being made nearly every day as the research continues. Hence you may like to bookmark it and revisit it every month or so.

American Miniatures
I have received the enquiry below. If anyone is able to help, could they please contact Peter Larson direct?

I am calling from Fredericksburg, Va., USA, in connection with Washington Heritage Museums, regarding whatever leads or information you might share of Wm. Mercer (1773-1839), deaf mute son of Gen. Hugh Mercer.  Ch. Sellers related that second generation Peales recalled with admiration Willam's career in Va. as a portraitist and miniaturist.  Sellers also wrote that he had heard of naive and numerous Mercer works in the Fredericksburg area, but that he had not the looked in to it--I paraphase.  I have seen Williams Battle of Princeton effort and 2 miniatures that are recorded and in the literature.  .....but as to where any other work might be...   ???     Regards and thank you, and I am Peter Larson   

Tuesday

November 2014 - John Smart and Charles Willson Peale

John Smart at Philip Mould 
Most collectors of miniature portraits will have an opinion on who was the best artist, with many agreeing that the best British artist was John Smart. There is currently a brief opportunity to view and/or buy from a selection of fine works by him collected over many years. An opportunity to view a collection like this, especially all with the items being available for sale, is unlikely to be repeated in the foreseeable future.

As has been mentioned in the print media, see press or  http://online.flipbuilder.com/lawrence/nncx/ an exhibition ‘John Smart: A Genius Magnified’ arranged by Emma Rutherford and Philip Mould (the art dealer who appears on the popular TV programme Fake or Fortune) has opened to the public in London and can be viewed until 9th December, 2014. The exhibition showcases forty-five portrait miniatures and drawings from a single-owner collection and represents the biggest collection of miniatures by Smart to be offered on the open market for almost a century. An online version of the catalogue (without essays) can be viewed by clicking here. A price list can be viewed here, although it is highly recommended you get in touch with Emma promptly as she has been overwhelmed by the amount of interest so far. To order a hard copy of the catalogue to be sent via post, please email by clicking here.


In its nature the collection is just as important as other major collections, such as the collection of Smart's work in the Edward B Greene Collection at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Even more impressive is the Starr Collection of Miniatures in Kansas City, where there is a collection of John Smart miniature portraits which includes dated examples for every year from 1760-1810. There are printed catalogues for both these collections, which were published in 1951 and 1971, and which occasionally can be purchased via Abebooks for those interested.

Regular visitors to this site, will be aware that earlier this year the single miniature portrait below on paper of General Thomas Bruce by John Smart was purchased for this Artists and Ancestors collection. http://british-miniatures.blogspot.co.nz/2014/09/smart-john-portrait-of-general-thomas.html That was a highlight for this collector, as neither the vendor, nor the other bidders at the auction, realised the miniature was by John Smart.


American collectors will have their own opinions about the best artist who worked in America. To perhaps help enable a comparison of John Smart and Charles Willson Peale, this collector was then fortunate enough to purchase at an on-line eBay auction a miniature portrait by Charles Willson Peale. http://aminports3.blogspot.com/2014/09/peale-charles-willson-portrait-of.html Again the vendor did not realise who the artist was, but this time another bidder did realise that Peale was the artist, so there was some competition, although it was still able to be acquired for this collection at well below the normal market value. Its condition is a little less than perfect, but at an age of 250 years that is perhaps to be expected.

The two miniature portraits by Peale and Smart as depicted here, were acquired within two months of each other, and were offered for auction by vendors who did not know what they were selling. That is the best possible recommendation for collectors to study miniatures sufficiently well to be able to back their instincts when an unattributed work comes onto the market. Although on a minor (miniature!) scale, the personal thrill of making a successful purchase and attribution against expert international competition, is considerable and, even without the same degree of $$$ or £££ signs, is perhaps comparable to the reaction of those owners of major works who receive a "thumbs up" from Philip Mould when subjected to his Fake or Fortune test.