August - American additions to the collection

During August several American miniature portraits were acquired for the collection. They include two miniatures by important New York artists of the early 19C, Joseph Wood and Nathaniel Rogers, which join other works by these artists already in the collection. There is also one portrait from around 1820-1825 by an unknown artist.

More research is required on these miniatures and the other items acquired with them, but the (regrettably slow) progress can be seen at Draft - Comstock, Stout, and etc portraits

There is also a miniature by William John Thomson, who is often regarded as American as he was born in Savannah, GA although he worked for most of his life in Britain, see Thomson, William John - portrait of Charlotte Knox Trotter

Additionally, there are two miniatures from the early 20C, one being by Anna Margaretta Archambault (12 Feb 1857-1956) a prominent artist who painted miniatures for many of her 99 year life, but whose works do not often appear on the market. The other 20C miniature is by an unknown artist.

Joseph Wood
After much reflection both this miniature by Joseph Wood (1778-1830) and another one below by Nathaniel Rogers, have both been determined as being portraits of Eleutheros Dana Comstock.

Eleutheros settled in NYC around 1810, which fits with Joseph Wood who established himself as a miniature painter in New York in 1801. Wood was in partnership with John Wesley Jarvis from 1803, when Edward Greene Malbone visited their studio and instructed them both in various aspects of miniature painting. The Malbone influence means that sometimes, Wood's work is mistaken for that of Malbone.

The Wood/Jarvis partnership broke up in 1809 and in 1811, Wood took on Nathaniel Rogers as an apprentice. Wood then left NYC for Philadelphia in 1813.

Given the apparent age of Eleutheros Dana Comstock in the miniature, at around age 20, it would seem that the miniature was a later work by Wood and painted around 1810-1813 before he left NYC.

Johnson comments on Wood's work of this period; "In Wood's mature work the backgrounds, like Malbone's are light and shaded by dark hatches or painted to resemble sky. However, Wood's portraits are more strongly defined than Malbone's, showing stronger contrasts and deeper shadows, with dark outlines around the eyes. Gum arabic is used liberally.... The hair is brilliantly and airily rendered, often in the coup de vent style popular at the time. Heads are usually smaller than Malbone, and the subject is often placed off centre or low on the ivory. Like Malbone's, Wood's subjects are self-assured; their presentations, however, are more varied and offer fuller characterisations."

Another point points to a date of around 1810/1813 for this miniature is the red leather case, which appears to be original, but is really still too large for the miniature and has a fitted brass bezel.

In 1812 the United States declared war on Britain after a period of crippling trade embargoes, and hence it would have been difficult to import oval gold and glass backed cases imported from Britain and which were often used before 1812.

Thus the few artists active at this time, would have had to make up cases of lower standards than would previously have been acceptable to their clients. It was not until after the end of the war, and closer to 1820 that European cases were more readily available.

As mentioned elsewhere, see Case study - The Embargo Act of 1807 and 19C miniature portrait cases it is probable that the difficulty of obtaining European cases between 1808 and 1815, led to the more or less complete divergence of American and British case styles after 1805.

The United States persisting with oval miniatures for a much longer period and developing a distinctly locally made style with carved, foliate borders.

Within this Artists and Ancestors collection, there are three other miniatures which have been tentatively attributed to Joseph Wood, although experts on the subject may disagree with some of them.

The miniature of an unknown lady shown here is in a case of poor quality, which suggests it dates from around 1810-1813. For more details, see Wood, Joseph - portrait of a lady

The miniature of the man in a wig and a blue coat, if there is agreement to an attribution to Wood, would seem to be an earlier work by Wood, as the proportions and tones are more similar to the 1805 miniature of James Stuart, fig 275 in the Manney Collection. See also Wood, Joseph - portrait of a man and Wood, Joseph - portrait of a man

That of the lady in the white dress and the other man, have proportions which are similar to that of the Comstock miniature by Wood and thus seem likely to be miniatures by Wood dating from around 1810. They seem to also fit within Johnson's comments on the mature style of Joseph Wood.

Eleutheros Dana Comstock by Nathaniel Rogers

Attaching to the reverse of this miniature is a note reading; "Stephen Comstock, brother of Julia Comstock Conger".

However, initially at least, there was more confidence about the artist than the sitter, as the name appears to disagree with other records showing the name of Julia's brother.

The sitter is instead believed to be Eleutheros Dana Comstock whose photograph has been repeated here.

Although unsigned, the artist is clearly Nathaniel Rogers (1787-1844) who as mentioned above, was taken on as an apprentice by Joseph Wood in 1811, shortly before Wood left New York for Philadelphia in 1813.

Rogers quickly became prominent in New York and painted many of the well known and fashionable people of his day. His style is quite distinctive, although there were subtle changes in his approach over the years.

Johnson comments; "Unlike Wood, Rogers employed a palette of clear, lively color. His work of around 1815 was already delicate and sophisticated. The subjects of his highly individualised portraits are presented in a direct and appealing manner."

Inclusive of this latest addition, there are now five miniature portraits by Nathaniel Rogers in this collection. The other miniatures are shown here to enable a comparison of his style.

From the clothing, hairstyles, and casework, it ought to be possible to rank them in approximate date order, but that has not been attempted. However, the rectangular portrait will be the most recent.

As all the sitters have white neckwear, it is taken as a sign they are among the earlier works by Rogers. Until about 1825, Rogers favoured an oval shape, but after that he usually painted in a rectangular format.

Another Comstock miniature of a young man is well painted in somewhat of a primitive style by an unknown artist.

It dates from around 1820-1825. The casework is a finely crafted example of the very best type of American case which appeared after about 1820.

Sadly, there seems to be no available information about the early 19C case-makers who developed this style, but they were very talented metal workers.

The gold chain looped through the bale would have been worn around the neck and so shows how miniatures such as this were worn.

The wearing of miniatures continued much longer in America, than in Britain, where there was a move to rectangular "cabinet miniatures", to be displayed in, or on, cabinets by around 1820.

Anna Margaretta Archambault and an unknown artist.

The first miniature portrait is in a carved ivory frame, and is of Adaline H Wignall (sometimes Adeline Wignall) (15 Apr 1828-27 May 1873), mother of Charles F Wignall (28 Dec 1856->1910) and the first wife of James Charles Wignall (12 Dec 1829-14 Jun 1900) who she had married in Philadelphia on 13 May 1855.

The miniature is dated 1912 and was painted by Anna Margaretta Archambault (12 Feb 1857-1956), (aka A. Margaretta Archambault) a well known miniature portrait painter in the revival period.

Anna Archambault was the 1908 founder of the Philadelphia School of Miniature Painting and was also secretary of the Pennsylvania Society of Miniature Painters.

Anna Archambault was awarded the Miniature Painters Medal of Honor in 1922 and the Emily Drayton Taylor Gold Medal in 1939. She exhibited for many years at the annual PAFA exhibitions, even as late as 1945.

For more about the miniature, see Archambault, Anna M - portrait of Adaline Hall Wignall

The second 20C miniature also dates to around 1912, but unfortunately neither the artist, nor the sitter are known.

However, it does give a good idea of the fashions of that period and also the very great wealth that was being amassed by some sections of the American population by the end of the 19C.

For more about it see Unknown - portrait of a lady with feathers

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