August 2012 - Seen in the marketplace

Apologies to any regular visitors who have wondered why I have missed a couple of months. I have instead been deeply involved with my medical history research and am now turning more attention to my research into Mary Shelley's inspiration for the character of Victor Frankenstein. Medical history and Frankenstein may seem unlikely subjects to be linked to miniature portraits, but it all comes out of my research into the miniature portrait of Sir Anthony Carlisle by Henry Bone. There is an update at The Real Mr Frankenstein where I invite discussion about Mary's inspiration. My research there was largely completed a year ago, but has been on the back burner, with medical history on the front burner!

Anyway, here are several sales of miniatures which caught my eye for various reasons. This one of Alice Forester aged 18 and a half was signed RH 1896. I do not know the artist, but it could be Robert Halls, or Richard Hollingdale who were both active around that time. The price seemed high at £1,141, but as always was helped by being an identified and pretty lady!

Later: A kind visitor has suggested it may be by Robert Henderson (1826-1904), if so he would have been 70 when he painted it in 1896.

In the late 19C/early 20C there were many decorative miniature wax portraits of famous people. Although decorative, they are worth collecting for the colour and the technique. These two were sold by the same vendor and I thought the prices were very reasonable, although I have not checked their identities.

The vendor thought the man in red was General James Wolfe and it sold for £71. The man in blue was described as John Paul Jones and sold for £91.

A stunning miniature of an unknown man signed by 'W Bradley March 24th 1822' sold for the same price as Alice Forester £1141, so it seems the same two bidders were competing for those miniatures.

Sold separately for a combined price of £292 were these two wonderful bracelets.

Although the artistic quality was not high, the price seemed very reasonable for such rare examples of miniature jewellery.

The smaller version of the girl better shows the overall design of the bracelet.

The benefit of named artists and sitters is seen with these two miniatures. The lady sold for £767. She was identified on the reverse as a Countess and was painted by an artist whose signature as depicted below is difficult to read and which I could not readily find in Blattel, although I would expect it to be there somewhere as Blattel lists 36,000 miniature painters.

Although the young man identified as Joel White is unsigned, the style is distinctive and he was attributed to Abraham Parsell and sold for $800. A very reasonable price for such an American miniature.

Finally, these two miniatures illustrate the best and worst of collecting. The lady in the bonnet sold for $335 and was described as "Antique 18th Century Miniature Portrait Painting on Ivori of a Young Woman by World Famous Listed United Kingdom Artist John Smart (1742/43-1811) ca 1789. Signed & Dated with Initials lower Left "JS 1789" this Beautiful Watercolor Painting on Ivori in Metal Frame with Gallery Label on the Back Reads "The Deerhoff Galleries WASHINGTON, D. C." shows a Pretty Young Blonde Hair Blue Eyed Female in the Extremely Skilled Style of Realism Painting.This Lovely Little Gem will make a Very Rare & Important Addition to any Antique Miniature Portrait Painting & 18th Century Art Collection."

Despite such a glowing description it is, at best, a copy of a Smart, but even then the style does not look like that of Smart. It is an out and out fake, worth only $80-$120, and then mainly for the frame.

In contrast, the lady in the dark dress sold for almost the same price, $327. It is a typical outstanding miniature by John Wood Dodge and the identity of the sitter should be on the back of the ivory, as Dodge invariably signed and also identified his sitters. Unfortunately it has a stress fracture on the right. I believe it was worth around $1000 and if undamaged would have sold for over $2000.

The two miniatures therefore make a very interesting comparison.

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