April - Additions to the collection

There are many miniatures in this collection, but most have been acquired singly.

Given that marriage was a common human state (less so these days), one might expect that most miniature portraits would come in pairs of a husband and wife.

However that is not the case and while not rare, pairs of miniatures are comparatively uncommon and would comprise less than 5% of the examples in this collection.

Thus it is most unusual that all the miniatures added this month represent husband and wife, in each instance being painted by a single artist.

The earliest is from around 1775 and shows an unknown husband and wife, perhaps a miller and his wife, which are contained inside a silver rococo snuff box. Although the snuff box is hallmarked, at present the country of origin is uncertain, perhaps Holland.

For more about this item and to view other snuff boxes in the collection, see View

Stepping ahead by forty years to 1815, there is an unusual pair of "modest school" miniature portraits. The term "modest school" is often used when referring to miniatures of modest size, usually about 45mm x 35mm. There were the norm up to about 1790, but are very uncommon after 1800.

The unknown pair appear to have been painted by a Continental trained artist working in America, as the cases appear to be American. For more about the pair see View

The third pair steps forward another five or ten years to 1820 or 1825. The quality of this pair is very good and they are attractive to view.

The sitters are again unknown, but a kind and knowledgeable visitor has advised that they are most likely American miniatures by Thomas Gimbrede, a French born artist who emigrated to America and for 14 years taught French and Drawing at the West Point Military Academy.

For more about Thomas Gimbrede and the portraits, see View

The fourth couple are by far the most interesting of the additions, even though they have less age.

The pair of miniatures were painted in 1938 by Dorothea Kellner, a German artist.

The date of 1938 makes this pair almost the newest miniatures in the collection, even though they are 70 years old.

The sitters are well identified as General August von Cramon and his wife Helene. The research into the miniatures gives a fascinating and enlightening, but in some instances very sad, view of historical events in Europe during in the first half of the 20C.

In particular, that General von Cramon's granddaughter Johanna Rahtgens (nee von Cramon) was married to one of the July 1944 German army plotters against Hitler and he was sadly executed in August 1944 for his part in the plot. Johanna is still alive at age 90, having now been widowed for nearly 64 years.

It is recommended that visitors do read much more about the von Cramon pair at View

At View when talking about the von Cramon miniatures, I mentioned a proposed United Artists documentary starring Tom Cruise and called "Valkyrie" which will be about the July 1944 bomb plot against Adolf Hitler.

In my local newspaper for April 10, there was this report saying the documentary had been delayed.

It is to be hoped that the documentary will be sensitively written and directed by Bryan Singer out of respect for the relatives of the bomb plotters, and not as a typical "over-the-top" Hollywood special effects display.

Research note
A very kind visitor has provided me with new information and suggested revised attributions for a number of miniatures in the collection, including the Thomas Gimbrede pair above.

It will take me a while to work through the various suggested revisions, as in some cases I need to do additional research and scan new images.

After some thought, I have decided, while making any necessary corrections and revisions, to in most cases retain the comments about the earlier incorrect attributions.

Changed attributions are part of the history of an item and earlier incorrect attributions help to demonstrate that making attributions to particular artists, while done with the best of intentions, is not an exact science.

No comments: