January Additions - Rosse, Biggs, and Goodridge

Well, 2007 ended with the addition of a miniature by John Ramage dated 1784. That was the most fortunate acquisition of 2007, the oldest miniature acquired during the year, and it was the last one acquired for the year.

Now 2008 has commenced with a miniature which may turn out to be the most fortunate acquisition for the whole of the coming year, as well as the oldest miniature. There are also two other interesting additions to the American section as further below.

Although not as important as the Ramage miniature, this miniature portrait of King William III (1650-1702) of England is nearly 100 years older, as it dates to around 1700. Thus it is over 300 years old.

Miniatures of this nature were often given by the reigning monarch as a token of allegiance to nobles or diplomats. Hence it is quite probable that King William III handled this actual miniature when presenting it as a gift.

King William III is now a distant historical figure, but his name is still commemorated in the United States as Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia is named for him. The miniature is so old, it was painted in enamel before most of the present buildings in Williamsburg were erected.

During most of the 18th century, Williamsburg was the center of government, education and culture in the Colony of Virginia. For more about Williamsburg, see The Official Colonial Williamsburg Guide for Historic Williamsburg ...

The miniature has been attributed, with the help of a very kind visitor, to a little known English jeweller and enamellist Michael Rosse (1650-1735), who was the husband of a better known early English miniaturist, Susan Penelope Rosse (1752-1700).

It is of typical small size for the period, being 28mm x 25mm and is painted in enamels on a gold base. Painting in enamels is a very demanding technique as the pigments change color during firing in a kiln and mulitple firings are necessary. The silver and paste case is later and dates to around 1750/1800. Enamel miniatures first appeared in the first half of the 17C, about a century after the first examples of miniatures using earlier techniques.

Being on a gold base allows one to speculate where the gold may have come from. No doubt in the 21C it would be possible to use a chemical process to determine the likely source from the impurities in the gold. However, until that happens I would like to think the gold reached England after have been "liberated" from a Spanish treasure galleon, taken as a prize when returning from the America's! Thus, the original American connection of this miniature could date back over 400 years from today. For more about the portrait and comparisons with other contemporary portraits of King William III see View

Although the miniature of King William III can be regarded as a historically important miniature, from the point of view of the pure pleasure of collecting, it is not as special as the second addition during January, which was a "must have" miniature and required a high bid to achieve success.

It is very rare for a miniature offered for sale to attract the tag of a "must have" in connection with this collection. Most miniatures worth bidding on, fall into the category of "nice to have if the price is right" which recognises that bidders with deeper pockets may well prevail at the auction.

The second miniature is by a very little known Argentinian miniaturist named Walter Ferris Biggs (not to be confused with the American artist Walter Biggs (1886-1968). He is so little known that his name does not even appear in Blattel's dictionary, which lists the names and details of 37,000 miniature painters from all over the world.

It is a pity he is not known, as he was obviously a talented artist. A little has been found out about him and is now included in the American 3 Gallery at View It appears he went to America in 1871, then to Argentina where he married and taught painting, before returning to America for the 1910 census.

The sitter in the miniature is another Argentinian miniature painter who does have a passing mention in Blattel. Her name was Luna Alston de Gallegos (1881-1978) and she was a 19 year old student of Biggs when the miniature was painted.

Research had previously established that Luna Alston de Gallegos was born in Buenos Aires in 1881, the daughter Dr John Alston, a Scottish doctor who came to Argentina in 1868, and of Carlota Luna, from Uruguay. She received lessons from Walter Biggs and she specialized in miniatures. Her first exhibition was in 1916 with her teacher and another artist. In 1929 she had another sole exhibition, by which time her work was well known. She painted nearly four hundred miniatures and almost all are signed Luna. She died in Buenos Aires, July 29, 1978. However none of that information, of itself, warrants an explanation of the phrase "must have".

To explain, about four years ago a dealer offered at online auction, a number of miniature portraits all signed by Luna Alston de Gallegos. They appeared to all be members of her family, but I could not afford to buy all of them. I did buy four of them at auction from the dealer and another which was subsequently re-offered for sale by another dealer. Thus there are five miniatures by Luna in this collection.

As to be expected, it was great to be able to have a miniature of an artist so well represented in the collection.

But on top of that, a comparison of the Biggs miniature and the earliest miniature by Luna as shown here and at View, has confirmed to my satisfaction that the Luna miniature, which had previously been unidentified, is in fact a self portrait, probably painted when Luna was about 25 years old.

Naturally, this made the Biggs miniature of Luna a "must have" as it provided proof of the self portrait.

To have two miniatures of the same person, one being a self portrait is unique in this collection and would be rare in any collection.

The other four miniatures by Luna of her family which are in the collection are shown here, with more about them all appearing in the American 20C Gallery, at American 20C

It would be nice to hear from any other collectors with miniatures by Luna, especially if the family relationships are known.

The third miniature in this group of additions has been attributed to Sarah Goodridge.

In a post last year I commented about damaged miniatures.

Generally, I avoid buying cracked miniatures, but from time to time do buy them if the price is not too expensive.

This one came from Kennebunkport, Maine and will be useful for reference purposes, as I believe it is by Sarah Goodridge (1788-1853). The location fits, as Kennebunkport is only 90 miles from where Sarah worked in Boston.

Her work in good condition can go for high prices, so it is useful to have a miniature by her that can be used for comparison when considering potential attributions.

Sarah was the elder of two sisters, and her younger sister Eliza Goodridge (1798-1882) also painted miniatures. Johnson describes Sarah as "America's finest woman miniaturist". Given that praise, it is hoped visitors will forgive the crack.

Sarah received informal instruction from Gilbert Stuart and lived her entire life in Boston, supporting her mother, her paralytic brother, and a niece from her painting.

Based upon a comparison with this photograph of Eliza Goodridge taken c1870, it is even possible that this miniature is a miniature portrait of Eliza Goodridge, painted by Sarah Goodridge around 1825.

So far, no other images of Eliza have been located, but one imagines that they exist somewhere, as the sisters must have sat for one another to improve their painting skills.

Stylistically, the miniature is similar, although a little less mature, when compared to this miniature by Sarah Goodridge of Mrs Alice Goudry of Wilmington Massachusetts, which is in the Metropolitan Museum collection and which has been dated as c1830-1835, although I would date it a little earlier than that by the neck frill, perhaps closer to 1820-1825.

Aside from possibly being of Eliza Goodridge, one could also believe this miniature of an unknown lady, is a portrait of Alice Goudry as the features and expression are again quite similar.

Johnson has described Sarah's work: "Goodridge's best works are direct, realistic, powerfully individualised portraits. Her brushwork is tightly controlled and the compositions tiny in scale; yet in costume, color, and pose, these miniatures are strongly influenced by the work of Gilbert Stuart."

And " The subject is often placed low on the ivory; backgrounds are usually blue-grey shaded to brown at the bottom; skin tones are light cream and pink. Ladies are frequently painted wearing a hair ornament, jewellery, and a bright red paisley shawl."

However, the hair ornament and red shawl are absent with this miniature, which is likely to be one of her earlier works. 1297

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