Miller, George M - wax portrait of a man

Rarer than ivory miniature portraits, are wax portraits such as this one.

It has been attributed to George M Miller (?->1821?). SIRIS list five wax portraits by him and suggests he died in 1819, but another reference (Bolton) states he exhibited a wax portrait of Talbot Hamilton in 1821.

In her work on wax sculptors, Bolton attributes 23 wax miniatures to Miller, but at least one of them is wrong, as it is signed by the German was sculptor Curiger.

Miller originally emigrated to the United States from Germany under the name Mueller. He was a potter, stone-cutter, and modeller and worked in Baltimore, New York, and Philadelphia, being active from 1790 to 1821.

He was a member of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts where he exhibited several waxes between 1813 and 1821, including one of James Madison (whereabouts unknown). He was also a fellow of the Columbian Society of Arts.

There were a few other modellers in wax. The most famous was Patience Wright, but others of note included Johann Christian Rauschner (aka John Christopher Rauschner), Valaperta, and Robert Ball Hughes.

The work of Miller and Rauschner is similar to one another, but Miller's sculptures tend to be a little smaller. For example with this one, the actual wax is 40mm x 20mm.

Rauschner apparently used colored wax throughout, whereas with this Miller wax, the face is colored, but the coat is white wax covered with brown pigment. The sitter has a pigtail, although it is hard to see in the image here.

The waxes were made by pressing soft wax into a mould and hence multiple copies could be made. The resultant model was then mounted on black glass and framed, often with a distinctive style of metal frame imported from Germany.

Although there is some similarity with this miniature of James Madison, which is by Charles Willson Peale, it seems unlikely this is a version of the Madison portrait as Bolton records that as right facing.

There are three other American wax miniatures in this collection.

Until now they have all been attributed to Rauschner, but they need to be revisited to determine if any should instead be re-attributed to George Miller.1326

For anyone interested in knowing more about Robert Ball Hughes, I have been kinldy sent the following information; "I found your blog and thought you would like to see my website for my ancestor, Robert Ball Hughes, at I have a page on wax miniatures at "

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