February - Blue Eyes, Record Price, John Tweed, ATJ Bullard

Over time this blog seems to be widening a little from its original purpose of just being a record of miniature portraits in the collection. Hopefully, purists will pass over irrelevancies, but some readers may find a few items that catch my eye to be of interest.

Blue Eyes
For example today I see a report about blue-eyed people that relates to a comment I made some time ago in the background about the briefness of human history, see History of the Collection

Now in January 2008, an interesting article in the news is that scientists have determined that all blue-eyed people can trace their ancestry to one person who probably lived in the Black Sea region about 10,000 years ago, see Blue eyes result of ancient genetic 'mutation' - Telegraph

The scientists evaluated a sample of 800 people with blue eyes and found that 99.5% have the same genetic mutation. This being a mutation from the naturally occurring brown eyes.

As I have blue eyes, I guess this supports my children's view that I am an "ancient mutant".

The article observes that it is not known why blue eyes spread among the population. Explanations include climatic advantages or sexual selection. One might even speculate that the first child with blue eyes became a powerful chief with numerous wives and blue eyed offspring, in the same way that many Asiatic people today can trace their genetic ancestry back to Gengis Khan.

The relevance here of the discovery, is that all sitters in the miniature portraits in this collection who have blue eyes, have a common ancestor from no more distant than 10,000 years ago. Presumably the mutation also includes grey, hazel, or green eyes.

People interested in theories of early human history and migration may also like to browse the Solutrean theory of migration from Europe to America via "ice-hopping" around the Arctic ice cap, see the Solutrean hypothesis which suggests the Solutrean migration was around 15,000 years ago, with the earliest Clovis type tools so far found in America dating to 13,500 years ago. The case of Kennewick Man is also interesting. This map comes from

Although I am not an anthropologist, the arguments in favour of the Solutrean hypothesis, which are based upon the close similarity of Clovis and Solutrean tool making and DNA genetics, to me seem stronger than the opposing views which propose that all early migration to America came via the Bering Strait.

Based upon the "blue eye" research it seems that any Solutreans who migrated to America could not have had blue eyes, as they reached America 5000 to 7000 years before the blue eye mutation!

Record Price for Portrait Miniature
Last year I commented upon record prices for miniature portraits. While browsing I came across a related miniature portrait, although carved not painted. This sold for GBP 574,000 and rivalled the record for the miniature portrait of George Washington by John Ramage.

It was reported in the Daily Telegraph by Will Bennett in 2003 as below.

A rare portrait miniature, bought by a dealer in a job lot costing £881 at Sotheby's, fetched £574,250 at another auction house. The tiny portrait of the 17th century Mogul emperor Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal in India, had been in a collection at a country house in Lincolnshire since the 19th century.

The portrait minature of Shah Jahan

In October 2002 it was among items from Fulbeck Hall, the home of the Fane family, which were auctioned at Sotheby's saleroom at Olympia, west London, where staff failed to recognise its significance. It was included in a job lot of 19 items for which an unnamed dealer paid £881. Sotheby's did not realise that these included one of only four known portrait miniatures of Shah Jahan.

Sotheby's said that lot 460 included two porcelain snuff boxes, two "turned wooden toilet articles" and other items but did not even mention the portrait miniature. When asked to explain how this had happened Sotheby's declined to comment.

The dealer took it to Bonhams in London where experts recognised its importance and told him that it should fetch £40,000 to £60,000 at an auction of Islamic and Indian art. Even this turned out to be pessimistic and it sold for £574,250.

John Tweed

An interesting miniature recently acquired for this collection was this portrait of John Tweed (1869-1933).

No history came with the miniature, but from the inscription on the reverse, it has been possible to discover that the sitter is in fact a famous British sculptor of the early 20C who, despite being born in Glasgow, Scotland, has been called "The English Rodin".

The artist is John Stewart Clark (1883-1956), who is not well documented, but it has been possible to find out a little about him. For more about John Stewart Clark and to see the most recent progress with my research about John Tweed, together with examples of his work, see View

Tweed was very friendly with Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) the famous French sculptor and Rodin always stayed with Tweed whenever he visited London.

Tweed cast a bronze of Rodin which is depicted here.

Researching the miniature of Tweed encouraged me to revisit and research further a miniature portrait of Rodin standing by "The Thinker" which appears in the European 1 Gallery of this collection and is also reproduced here.

Previous attempts to identify the artist "F L Nicolet" had been unsuccessful, but now I think I have been able to track him down.

He appears to be Frank L Nicolet (1889-?) English born in Sussex, of a French father, but worked in Canada and the United States. While in Canada he painted at least one patriotic World War I poster.

For much more about him and the miniature of Rodin, see View

The miniature has been left in the European 1 Gallery, but could just as easily be included as British or American.

Anne Tuttle Jones Bullard
Although I am still uncertain about the artist who painted this miniature portrait, I confess I have a soft spot for Anne Tuttle Jones Bullard as she was one of the first miniatures I spent a lot of time researching several years ago. She was born 200 years ago this week on Jan 30, 1808, the granddaughter of the widow of Captain Isaac Davies the first officer killed in the War of Independence and also an early American author, writing about six or seven books, copies of four of which are contained in the collection. For much more about her see View

Given the interest of many people in early American history, and as this week was the 200th anniversary of her birth, I thought I would communicate with the town of Acton, MA, so see if their local newspaper might like to give her a mention. Thus I sent the following message to the local library.

"I do not know whether you are intending to publicise it, but I thought I should let you know that an early American female author was born in Acton 200 years ago this month, on Jan 30 1808. Her name was Anne Tuttle Jones and she married Rev Artemas Bullard on Jun 2, 1829. If you agree, it would be nice if your local newspaper was prepared to mention her, as her life was quite interesting. For example, she was the granddaughter of Hannah Davis, the widow of Captain Isaac Davis. I collect miniature portraits and have one of her. You can see it and read about her on my website blog and the newspaper is welcome to draw on that as a source if they wish."

I received a polite, but disappointing reply; "I wasn't aware of her, but given that we don't own her books and no one else in the Minuteman Library Network does either, publicizing her would tend to create a demand that we would have no way of filling, so we'll pass. We are working on a Civil War exhibit which mentions both Isaac and Hannah Davis. It will include some of his artifacts and a copy of Hannah's portrait. The exhibit covers coincidences of dates and Acton's rapid response in both the Revolution and the Civil War, hence the Davis inclusion."

Thus, I thought I would make my own commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Anne Tuttle Jones Bullard here!

Hopefully, any readers of this blog will please give her a little toast over your next glass of wine or beer!

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