Unknown - portrait of a lady with feathers

Increasingly, I have a reluctance to acquire miniature portraits for this collection where the sitter is unknown, and the artist is also unknown.

This is because the research aspects of collecting provide a fascinating way of studying social and political history and so have become a much more important part of the overall process of collecting.

However, it is hard to pass up the opportunity to acquire pretty ladies, especially when they are wearing elaborate and elegant clothes!

Especially when the artist appears to be talented.

It is therefore a great pity that both the sitter and artist for this portrait are unknown.

The sitter gives an excellent appreciation of fashion for the wealthy who lived in America, I think around 1910 to 1920, although my estimated dates may be a little out.

Thus comments from any visitor, who is able to date the miniature a little more precisely from the clothing, would be welcome.

If a date around 1912 were considered appropriate, one could well imagine her being a passenger on the Titanic which sank on its maiden voyage in that year.

It is fascinating how the artist has been able to convey the impression of glittering diamonds on a two-dimensional surface.

Her feathers are set into a diamond pin, she wears a diamond and pearl choker, a diamond necklace and earrings, a diamond bracelet, a dress covered with pearls, and has a large solitaire diamond on her little finger.

The pose must have been especially selected to draw attention to the diamond ring. 1346


Archambault, Anna M - portrait of Adaline Hall Wignall

This portrait is of Adaline H Wignall (sometimes Adeline Wignall) (15 Apr 1828-27 May 1873), mother of Charles F Wignall (28 Dec 1856->1910) and the first wife of James Charles Wignall (12 Dec 1829-14 Jun 1900) who she married in Philadelphia on 13 May 1855.

The artist
The miniature is by Anna Margaretta Archambault (12 Feb 1857-1956), (aka A. Margaretta Archambault) a well known miniature portrait painter in the revival period.

In the 1850 census she is described as Maggie, aged 3 and is living in Philadelphia with her parents Archile Lucien Archambault 39, a machinist and Henritta B Archambault 35 and her brothers Thomas 8, and Charles 6. There is also an apprentice and a servant living in.

There are other census references to the family, there is not a lot of extra information, although in 1880 no longer Maggie, but now A Margaretta Archambault 23, is a school teacher.

Her passport application of Nov 2, 1891, states her father was native born American. She also stated her date of birth as 23 Feb 1857. She described herself as: artist, 5ft 4ins tall, high forehead, brown eyes, pointed nose, medium mouth and chin, an oval face with dark complexion and dark hair.

Her mother Henrietta A Archambault (6 Apr 1821-?) made a passport application on the same day. She had been born on 6 Apr 1821 and her father was also a native born American. Henrietta was even shorter, but must have been conscious of her height as she stated she was 5ft, plus one-quarter inch!

Anna and Henrietta appear to have been accompanied on their travels by Eleanor L Levy aged 47, who made a passport application at the same time and was a witness to the other two applications.

Anna Archambault was the 1908 founder of the Philadelphia School of Miniature Painting and was also secretary of the Pennsylvania Society of Miniature Painters. For details of other miniature art societies, see Miniature Art Societies of the Revival Period

In the 1910 census, Anna was living in Philadelphia with her father Achile Archmbault 89, her brother Thomas Archambault 58, who was a jeweller, and her nephew Archile Archambault III aged 14.

In 1924 she authored "A Guide Book of Art, Architecture and Historic Interests in Pennsylvania". Anna also travelled to Europe at least one other time, arriving back in New York on 14 Sep 1930 giving her address as 1714 Chestnut St, Philadelphia.

Her extensive private papers are available for research. They date from 1876-1945 and include her personal correspondence as portrait painter, miniaturist, author, and educator, as well as sketches, photos, and correspondence on her work in miniatures.

Also included are correspondence and notes for Guide Book of Art, Architecture, and Historic Interest in Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, 1924), which she edited for the Art Committee of the State Federation of Pennsylvania Women, histories of the counties of Pennsylvania, and clippings and illustrations to accompany the histories. The Smithsonian American Art Museum holds one miniature by her, a 1913 portrait of Miss Clementine Dalcour in Mourning .

The miniature is housed in a carved ivory frame and has an ivory easel back. These ivory frames are not common, but examples do appear from time to time. It would have been imported from China or Japan.

Although dated 1912, there is a comment that the miniature was copied from a photograph taken about 1850.

Anna Archambault was awarded the Miniature Painters Medal of Honor in 1922 and the Emily Drayton Taylor Gold Medal in 1939. She exhibited for many years at the annual PAFA exhibitions, even as late as 1945.

The sitter
In the 1860 census for Philadelphia, there is a reference to Francis Wignall 67, with assets of $2500 who is living with his son James Wignall 30 and daughter in law, Adaline Wignall 34. Also Charles 3 and John ten months. The occupation of Francis in 1860 is not given, but from the occupation of surrounding residents both Francis and James appear to have been boat-builders.

By 1870 there is no evidence of Francis, but Fanny Wignall aged 60 is the head of the house. However, it is possible Francis and Fanny are the same person, but subject to enumerator errors. James is now a shipwright and he and Adaline have three sons at home: Charles F 13, Samuel H 10, and James H 7.

In 1880 Charles is a clerk living with James Wignall and his two brothers, but presumably his mother Adaline has died.

By 1900 James Wignall has remarried to Mary Clark, their marriage being in 1892. However Charles as a bank clerk is still living at home, along with his step sister Clara A Clark and his step brother John J Clark who at this stage is a boat-bulder. Mary discloses having had five children, but with only two still being living in 1900.

The 1910 census shows a similar same family group except that James had died in 1900. Charles is now a banker and John J Clark describes himself as a theatrical actor. More about him can be see as the actor Jack J Clark, see Jack J. Clark - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia and

It was shortly after this in 1912, that Charles must have commissioned the miniature of his mother, based upon an early photograph. Possibly influenced by his father's death and perhaps also a deteriorating condition of an 1850 photograph, but so he could still have her portrait.

As a banker Charles had an article published in a trade magazine, "Method of Bank Clearings" by Charles F. Wignall, (American Counting Room, April, May, June 1884, pp. 193-8) - see The Bookkeepers' Beneficial Association of Philadelphia: an early ...

It is possible Charles is the CF Wignall/or if not, is related to the Charles Francis Wignall mentioned in "Colonial and Revolutionary families of Pennsylvania". See also Wignall: Colonial era-present and James C. Wignall married Mary A. ( White) Clark

Charles seems not to have married. 1345