The Market for Miniatures

The Market for Miniatures.

Interesting miniature portraits, especially those with an American connection, that have caught my eye in the last month or so, include;

A rare miniature offered by Neal Auctions sold for a hammer price of $1200, against an estimate of $400-$600.

It was described as;

"Jean Baptiste Emile Wiltz (American/New Orleans, 1812-1891), "Portrait of a Louisiana Gentleman", miniature set in a gold brooch, signed and dated "1840" center right, sight 1 3/4 in. x 1 1/2 in".

Wiltz is not mentioned in Blattel.

Recently sold for GBP403 was this miniature of an unknown lady with brunette hair worn in ringlets, a pearl necklace around her neck, wearing a pink and white dress and with ribbons at the shoulders. It is by the American born, British artist William John Thomson (1771-1845).

It is signed and dated Aug 1827 on the reverse. Such dating is very helpful in documenting the history of fashion and dating unsigned miniatures.

For more about William John Thomson and examples in this collection of other miniatures by him, see Thomson, William John - portrait of Charlotte Knox Trotter

Included in auction sales were these two attractive watercolor portraits by Alta Elizabeth Wilmot (American, 1852-1930).

They were good buying as they both sold below estimate. The portrait of a young peasant girl; watercolor; 9" x 7"; signed and dated 1890 lower left, sold for a hammer price of $275, compared to the estimate of $500 to $1000.

The portrait of a young girl reading in the library; watercolor; 14" x 10"; signed lower left, sold for $600, compared to an estimate of $1000 to $2000.

There are a couple of miniature portraits by Alta Wilmot in this collection, one being of Mark Twain.

In the late 19C and early 20C there developed in India, a market for miniature pictures of prominent Indian temples, palaces, and other important buildings.

They were primarily painted by local craftsmen for the tourist trade and required quite a degree of skill. Thousands must have been painted, but they usually fetch good prices.

This group of nice miniatures sold for GBP686.

This Artists and Ancestors collection has for some time, included a nice framed group of Indian miniatures, although I must confess that it has not yet been added to the website. I will try and add them later this month or next month.

Another cheap buy for someone was this interesting pair of portraits which shows how miniature portraits could be copied in oil or vice versa.

In this instance I would think the oil was copied from the miniature. However, there are subtle differences so they may possibly each be originals.

Pook and Pook sold the pair for a hammer price of $1100, compared an estimate of $2000 to $3000.

They were described as both being by Edward Dalton Marchant (American, 1806-1887), "two portraits, one oil on canvas and one watercolor on ivory, of a Philadelphia silver merchant Eli Wescot Bailey, 27'' x 22'' and 2'' x 1 1/2''".

Primitive miniatures can still attract high prices.

Pook and Pook also sold this miniature by Justus Dalee (American, 1793-1878), a watercolor and pencil miniature profile portrait of a woman, 3'' x 2 1/2''. Provenance: Richards Family, Glens Falls, NY.

The hammer price of $2400 was close to the top estimate, as the pre-auction range was $1500 to $2500.

This was above the price that several Da Lee miniatures have sold recently.

An interesting item sold at auction in Germany by Auction Team Brekker, for a hammer price of Eur450, against an estimate of Eur 550 - Eur 750 was this wooden paint box described as;

"Photo Coloration Set, c. 1900 Wooden case. With 4 bottles of "Photominiature Bourgeois Aine, Paris" and "Photo-Miniature Lefranc & Cie., Paris", colors, paint brushes, palette and accessories for photos as well as flat and domed glass plates. Decorative sample photo in the lid! - Extraordinary collector's item and exhibition piece!"

It is only the second example I have ever seen.

The other example, which is similar and by the same maker, although not identical and seeming to be a little larger, being part of this collection.

For more information about the process, which involved reverse painting of a photographic image floated onto the back of a clear convex glass, see Miniatures and the Photograph

Perhaps as result of the financial crisis, a rare group of three miniatures by John Wood Dodge were offered for sale with a reserve of Eur 2100, but there were no buyers.

The three miniatures were in identical frames and appear to be of the same family. They were inscribed; "PAINTED BY JOHN W. DODGE MINIATURE PAINTER N° 485 PEARL ST NEW YORK APRIL 1834."

Normally there would have been a lot of interest in such a group.

The vendor was in France and so the trio may represent a family group who returned home to live in France after 1834. Again, the signature and date is helpful for dating costume.

An uncommon miniature which sold very cheaply for $86, was this engraving by Charles Balthazar Julien Fevret de Saint-Memin (1770-1852) of Captain Samuel Morris.

There is a very comprehensive 450 page catalogue of St Memin's work by Ellen G Miles and this engraving is included in that catalogue.

Morris is well documented as; "Samuel Morris (June 24, 1734 – July 7, 1812) was an American soldier in the American Revolutionary War. The grandson of Anthony Morris (II), he was born in Philadelphia. He often served in the legislature. He married Rebecca Wistar, daughter of Caspar Wistar (the elder). He was elected "governor" in 1776 of the social club known as "The State in Schuylkill," and re-elected annually until his death. He was also a founder and president for many years of the "Gloucester fox-hunting club." When the first troop of Philadelphia city cavalry was organized, no fewer than twenty-two members of the club were enrolled in its ranks, and Morris was elected its captain. The troop served through the campaign of 1776-77 as George Washington's bodyguard, and took an active part in the battles of Trenton and Princeton, in which latter engagement Samuel's brother, Anthony, ensign of the troop, was killed. On temporarily relieving the command from duty in January, 1777, Washington returned his "most sincere thanks to the captain," and added that, although the troop was "composed of gentlemen of fortune," its members had "shown a noble example of discipline and subordination." For thus taking part in the Revolution, Captain Morris was disowned by the Quakers, but he continued until his death to wear the dress and use the language of that sect, worshiping with them regularly. Morris died in Philadelphia, July 7, 1812."

To be continued in Part 3

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