June - Market place and other jottings

Next stop Hollywood?

Welcome to any and all Antiques Roadshow visitors who have recently been referred to this website.

Your scribe was flattered find he had received a mention in "The Antiques Roadshow Insider" magazine for June 2008. This is the magazine for the very popular American television show "The Antiques Roadshow", but which also appears around the world under several different national TV editions.

There is an article in the June Insider titled "Up Close and Personal" which comments about miniature portraits.

It is written by a lady named Jane Viator who I do not know, but who must have stumbled across this site and made some very kind comments about this website blog under the heading "Sources and Resources". Thus many thanks to her.

Having now "made" the Antiques Roadshow, I am anxiously checking my letter-box each day expecting to receive offers to feature some of the interesting sitters in the collection, either in a series on the History Channel, or in a Hollywood blockbuster!

Market Place

Regular visitors will know that the focus of this collection is American miniatures, although I do get distracted by other interesting miniatures, some of which may be valuable, but many others which are just interesting.

However, as there are so few reference books about American miniatures, it seems worthwhile to record images of some items sold, to help provide a reference on the subject.

The first example shown above is unsigned and was sold as unattributed, but it looks to be by Anson Dickinson.

It came from a Roosevelt estate and sold for under $1500, with the sitter being unknown.

The second was sold by Skinners and was described as;

"Signed and dated "M. B. Russell Pinxt 1839" l.r. and inscribed "Portrait of Dr. S. Graham by M.B. Russell Boston Mass. 1839" on backing paper. Watercolor on ivory, 4 1/4 x 2 5/8in, in a period molded wood frame."

The pre-sale estimate was $1000-$1500 and it sold for a hammer price of $1900.

Although it is hard to see in the photo, it was interesting to me to see that the signature on this miniature by Moses B Russell appeared to be scratched or incised on the front.

Works by Moses B Russell seem more normally to be signed on the reverse only.

Last year I was fortunate to purchase two miniatures by Moses B Russell, one of a young lady also having a scratched or incised signature. That of the man was signed on the reverse only.

The young lady was the first time I had seen any reference to a miniature by him being signed with an incised signature, although the recent auction example shown here seems to suggest a number were signed by Moses B Russell in this manner.

For more on these other two miniatures, see Russell, Moses B - portrait of a young lady and Russell, Moses B - portrait of a man

Other American items sold recently included one attributed to the DaLee family which was sold by Cowans for a hammer price of $1800, compared to a pre-sale estimate of $2000/$3000.

There were several members of the family who painted miniatures of this nature and their work is very similar.

There was also a good miniature portrait of a man signed and dated by William Doyle in 1823.

On the other hand, one has to be careful of wrongly described miniatures.

The miniature below of Empress Josephine of France was recently sold for $510. The seller provided their own appraisal stating that it was "appraised at very realistic $800-1,250".

It was claimed to be by the American born Scottish artist William John Thomson, with the claim being based upon it being signed with the initials "W I T".

However, I very much doubt it is by William John Thomson. Circular miniatures are rarely found to be painted by British or American artists. The quality is not good enough for Thomson's work, with a lack of fine detail and with the mouth being too small.

Additionally, Thomson normally signed and dated his miniatures on the reverse, together with his address, but not on the front.

Instead, I believe the miniature is a very weak decorative copy of a portrait of Empress Josephine which has been copied many times. Such copies are frequently seen at auction. It is possible the initials on it are a later addition to the miniature, designed to mislead a potential buyer.

Une Collection Francaise

To get a better idea of what quality French miniatures should look like, regular visitors may wish to revisit Une Collection Francaise where there are many good examples.

From time to time, more miniatures are added to that exhibition gallery.

Since it was first displayed about ten further miniatures have been added and it gives an excellent selection of 18C and early 19C French miniatures. The quality is far better than the decorative copy above.

In passing, please note that I am very happy to assist any other collector who is interested in displaying their collection in a similar manner, in order to make this resource more useful to anyone interested in collecting or studying portrait miniatures.

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