More from the Market

The Market for Miniatures

Included in recent sales of miniature portraits which have caught my eye over the past month, are several which I believe are decorative copies.

Some were advertised as if they were genuine, although I question their genuineness.

The first was offered by the auctioneers Grogan & Co and was described as; "GEORGE FREEMAN (American, 1789-1868) PORTRAIT MINIATURE OF LORD CORNWALLIS after John Singleton Copley; 4.5 x 4 inches." It was signed "G Freeman".

The estimate was $1500 - $2000, but it sold for a hammer price of only $1000, a sign that the buyers did not believe it was by Freeman.

Unfortunately, at the same auction, the bidders got carried away with this miniature of John Paul Jones, as it sold for a hammer price of $4750, compared to a pre-sale estimate of $1000 - $1500.

The auctioneers, Grogan & Co described it as: "SARAH GOODRICH (American, 1788-1853) FRAMED PORTRAIT MINIATURE OF JOHN PAUL JONES 3.75 x 3.5 inches."

The miniature was signed; "Sarah Goodrich", presumably to make the original purchaser think it was by Sarah Goodridge.

However, I believe both the "Freeman" and "Goodrich" miniatures are decorative examples probably painted around 1910, long after the deaths of both George Freeman and Sarah Goodridge.

Given the false use of the signatures of the artists, it would actually be more correct to call these miniatures fakes, rather than decorative copies.

Apart from my own doubts about the authenticity of the two portraits, it was significant to me that there were no Internet bidders.

There are a number of Internet collectors I am sure would have bid if the miniatures had been genuine!

However, in contrast Grogan & Co did auction a genuine miniature portrait by Laura Coombs Hills, whose miniatures command high prices.

Several of them were sold last year.

This one was described as;
"LAURA COOMBS HILLS (American, 1859-1952) PORTRAIT MINIATURE OF CHARLOTTE SPAULDING ALBRIGHT (1879-1939) watercolor; signed Laura Hills, l.r.;"

"together with TWO PHOTOGRAPHS and a BEADED HEADDRESS, photos show Mrs. Albright wearing the headdress portrait: 3.5 x 2.5 inches; framed: 11 x 10 inches."

The estimate was $4000 to $6000 and the hammer price was $8000.

Another decorative copy, or more precisely a fake, recently offered by a different vendor was this miniature portrait of George Washington.

It was described by the vendor as; "A Fabulous American Miniature Oil Portrait Of General George Washington, done in the manner of Gilbert Stuart."

And; "This is actually a mirror image of the portrait that you see on the Dollar Bill. It was done about 1780-1800, and is in good overall condition. There is a mark in the paint on the left side, just off his shoulder, and the Ivory has a Hairline, hence the old paper backing to strengthen it."

And; "This is one of the finest miniatures of Washington known. It is unframed, and ready for your period frame. It measures about 3" x 4". This is guaranteed to be an old period portrait of George Washington, the paper backing is an old land deed."

Rather than being painted in 1780 - 1800 as claimed, it is a fake which most likely dates from around 1900 - 1920. With old documents attached to the rear to give a false idea of its age.

After 25 bids it sold for $565, which is a bit over the top, but not too badly so compared to an identical miniature offered earlier this year.
Previous visitors to this website will recollect I wrote about an identical fake miniature of Washington earlier this year in April.

It was claimed to be of George Washington by Charles Willson Peale and was offered with a "Buy It Now" price of $1,450,000! Needless to say it did not sell.

It is reproduced here for comparison (they are both the same size) and my previous comments can be seen at April - Fakes and decorative miniatures

Another interesting portrait, which appears to be a copy, although I am not certain of that, is the pastel portrait below of a girl and a bird.

After 18 bids it sold for $2247.

The vendor described it as;

"Here is a very nice pastel portrait of a young girl holding a bird that I picked up at a sale a while ago. It is signed and dated 1760. I think the signature is T.S. Cobley. The painting and paper are in very nice condition. The back of the paper is very aged with some darker brown spotting. It is very fragile and delicate. I carefully removed it to take the photos because it was difficult to get good photos through the glass. The nice old frame looks original. The measurements are 10.5 by 14 inches."

The vendor sounds to be genuine, but the signature actually reads J S Copley for John Singleton Copley, a very famous American artist and miniaturist who did use pastels.

As I say, I think it is a copy, but would welcome expert opinion.

Also of interest to me, so much so that I bid, but unsuccessfully, was this miniature 19th century portrait of Sir Fitzroy Kelly (1796-1880), an English judge.

It is by Thomas John Gullick who was active 1851-1854 and was also an art critic and author.

In 1834 Kelly was made a king's counsel. He was solicitor-general in 1845 (when he was knighted), and again in 1852. In 1858-1859 he was attorney-general in Lord Derby's second administration. In 1866 he was raised to the bench as chief baron of the exchequer and made a member of the Privy Council.

I regret having not bid higher, as he featured for the defence in a celebrated murder case in the 19C, where he gained the nickname "Apple Pips Kelly".

For the details, see History The murder of Sarah HART 1845

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