May - Fakes and items of interest

Fakes, misleading descriptions, and etc.
I must again advise buyers on eBay to be cautious with their money.

Wrong Williams
The first pair of miniature portrait were described as by Alyn Williams (1865-1941), but are not by him, so sold for under $200. They were described as; "Pair of Miniature Portraits," c. 1900, of a lady and gentleman, on ivory, in matching relief decorated brass frames, H.- 4 3/8 in., W.- 3 in. "(Alyn Williams was) one of the most successful miniature painters at the turn-of-the century, Alyn Williams was born in Wales and spent his career in Washington DC and England. (H)e was a student at the Slade School of Art in London and in Paris at the Academy Julian with Jean Paul Laurens and Benjamin Constant. He was a member of the Royal Society of Miniature Painters and exhibited at the Royal Academy in London. Portrait subjects included King Edward VII, Queen Mary, Cardinal Garquet, Italian Premier Benito Mussolini, and American Presidents William Howard Taft and Calvin Coolidge. Many of his portraits are in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC."

Not a revolutionary hero
This was described as "AMERICAN REVOLUTION SOLDIER MINIATURE OIL PAINTING c1800 This auction features an Antique Miniature Oval Oil Painting of an American Revolutionary War Lieutenant Colonial. Executed with outstanding detail, it measures 3-1/2" X 2-3/4" and is inscribed verso; Lieutenant Colonial Elliot O. H. 1800."

However, the reverse does not say O H, it is Q H, for Queen's Hussars, thus apart from being too recent for the Revolutionary War, the soldier was British not American. Hence the buyer who bid $560, paid far too much and was mislead.

Not by Raphaelle Peale
This miniature was offered by the same vendor with a start price of $95 as by an unknown artist, but the seller canceled the listing and relisted it as by Raphaelle Peale with an opening price of $795. "In this auction we are offering an Antique Miniature Portrait Oil Painting of a Gentlemen, attributed to the American Philadelphia Listed Artist; Raphaelle Peale (1774-1825), circa turn of the 18th century. Measuring 2-3/4" x 2-1/4" and painted with outstanding detail and quality exhibited by this important artist. The reverse is carefully packed with the subjects hair." It then sold for $825, more than double its value, as it is British and not by Peale. A real Peale would have sold for over $2000.

A fake Barrett
Last March at View I expressed concern about modern fakes with a Barrett label on the reverse. I need to congratulate the eBay seller lordtrulock . He innocently offered this fake Barrett which he had bought at an local auction. Bidding reached £40 when I sent him an email pointing out it was a fake.

He therefore willingly withdrew it an reoffered it as a "genuine fake" as seen in the exploded image, with the description "A FAKE miniature portrait of a Gentleman, purporting to be by BARRETT of Holborn Bars, London, so supposedly painted in the mid-1800s. The frame's not too bad, quite nice, really. But the portrait is on a thin sheet of PLASTIC which was stuck to the flat piece of glass with SELLOTAPE. The trade label on the backing paper is a doctored copy of the white label in Pic 3. See the mark on each between the R and E of Barrett? Completely identical. The mark on the fake being the patch you get on photocopying the hole in the Original. The white label, by the way, is the label on the reverse of Barrett's GENUINE profile portrait of INSULL BURMAN. So, anybody want a fake? FAKE - FAKE - FAKE - FAKE - FAKE - FAKE - FAKE. (Just in case anybody reading this isn't sure) FAKE - FAKE - FAKE - FAKE."

I was an innocent party to the fraud, as you can see the maker of the fake had copied the Barrett trade label from an image on my website at 2 British Miniature Portraits: Barret(t) - profile of Insull Burman

A high price
I confess that I was surprised by the price achieved for this miniature $3300.

It is certainly well painted, but initially I could not pick the artist.

One possibility is the American artist, Edward Greene Malbone (1777-1807), but I tended to doubt it was by him. Joseph Wood (1778-1830) is the most likely, and Dale Johnson noted that the work of Wood and Malbone is often confused.

[Later, opinion seems to confirm that it is by Joseph Wood. Showing here is one of several portraits attributed to Joseph Wood which are in this collection. This one with a sky background, which is of Eleutheros Dana Comstock, certainly has a very similar pose and position on the ivory.]

One interesting thing about the portrait is the framing. It can be seen below that it is in a French black, ebonised, frame of the wrong size and a fillet has been needed. These frames are believed to have been introduced about 1810.

This all tends to suggest the portrait was framed in America after 1808 when the Embargo Act was in force and it was very difficult to obtain frames from Europe. This dating seems confirmed by Dale Johnson's comment that "Later works by Wood ... the backgrounds are somewhat darker".

I discussed this interesting situation at 2008 - Additions and Comment: Case study - The Embargo Act of 1807 ... Apart from the examples shown there I have a number of other miniatures with 'make-do' frames from the period. The overall subject would be an interesting one for an American museum to focus on as an exhibition.

Nathaniel Rogers
Although the vendor did not know who the artist was for this American miniature, a couple of the buyers had suspicions, as it sold for $1200. It was inscribed "taken in Boston is 1798", but in my opinion, it dates later than that. I think the hairstyle, sideburns, and neck-wear date closer to 1815-1820.

It appears to have been re-framed, as the frame is post 1850, whereas the miniature appears to be an earlier work of around 1820 by Nathaniel Rogers. However, as the quality is not up to his best standard, it may even be a period copy of a miniature portrait by Nathaniel Rogers. Period copies were made when several branches of a family wanted their own copy of an ancestral portrait. There are several miniatures by Nathaniel Rogers in this collection. The Nathaniel Rogers House is intending to have an exhibition of his work in 2012.

[Later, expert opinion has suggested that it is by William Lovett, (1773-1801). That fits with the 1798 inscription, but I still feel it was painted after Lovett died. In any event it is American and is nicely painted. The varying views tend to demonstrate something that most collectors would agree with, i.e. that attributions are an inexact science!]

A damaged miniature
Here is a good example of a miniature which sold for a good price considering the condition and the appearance of the sitter. It has a bad crack on the left but still sold for $413.

I think the reason for the good price was that it was painted by Marie Preble, a Scottish artist who worked in Paris and was friendly with the famous French sculptor Auguste Rodin.

Modern wax miniatures
Currently for sale on eBay with an opening price of $575, and wrongly described is this pair of wax miniatures. The vendor stating; "A rare pair of 19th century portrait miniatures superbly rendered in two colors of wax and housed in an ebonised and gilt frames. Notice the incredible detail, especially the woman's hair, roses and ribbon, and the man's ruffled shirt."

I think they are late 20C copies by the British artist Leslie Ray, who made quite a number of decorative copies including some of American subjects.

In July 2009 Bonhams sold a collection of nine wax miniatures by Ray for £70, about $10 each.

A fake Cosway
Currently for sale on eBay and described as "A very nice Richard Cosway (1742-1821) English, miniature watercolour on card entitled "Portrait of a Lady", 3.125" x 2.5" image, in a period frame, excellent condition." is this fake miniature of a young lady, which is inviting an opening bid of $1999.

Needless to say it is nothing like the work of Cosway.

Thus again, please be careful how you spend your hard-earned money.

[As a personal 'plug' if you find my blog helpful in saving you from buying fakes, I would be very grateful to anyone willing to help defray my costs by buying a copy of my ebook for only £9.99! See The Real Mr Frankenstein]


  1. Hello, not sure if this blog continues, but i have come across two miniatures, one a profile facing left seeming to be George Washington. The other looks to be Ben Franklin 3/4 view. I've seen other Franklins that are similar. The signatures are the same initials which appear to be a reverse c of possibly a Q, and an L. Wondering what would give them away as fakes.

  2. If you do a Google search on these three terms together; "artists and ancestors" "George Washington" "decorative" you should arrive at a list of my posts including examples of decorative and/or fake miniatures, e.g. see

  3. mashadean@gmail.comOctober 13, 2017 at 2:35 AM

    Hello..I know this is an old post but am today going to take my miniature to Bonham. I had thought it was a print but on removing it from the frame it is signed COSWAY..tiny capitals but a very odd subject ..a reverse copy of the Blue Boy...watercolour on ivory sheet piano key with carced floral inserts...signed on card backing in scribble what looks like I.Muck with Cos way undErnest. I would be more sceptical except I found out the artists not only knew each other but we're direct neighbours from just after the Blue Boy was a time Gainsborough was exhibiting at his home because he fell out with the RA. now of course this is probably just a crazy coincidence...Is it likely that as an art collector himself Cosway may have indeed copied the Blue Boy himself using whatever it was that reversed a picture??? Just for his own collection...After all helse used to send his wife to Europe to copy the masters of the day...maybe this is her copy and not his...but still an unusual item to find when you weren't expecting it