Rogers, Field, Edwards, and another artist

One of the best, and most prolific, American miniature painters of the early 19C was Nathaniel Rogers (1787-1844). Rogers first exhibited at the American Academy of Fine Arts in 1817 and thereafter was a regular contributor. As he rarely signed his work, attributing his miniatures can be a challenge for those unfamiliar with his work.

However, for those collectors who recognize his miniature portraits, his style, although changing as his career developed, is very distinctive, although it is a bit difficult to explain what makes it so distinctive. I think probably it is his soft perfection, with his distinctive style best explained and understood by comparing the eyes of his various sitters. Certainly his work is appealing and most collections have at least one example. The Metropolitan Museum has 19 miniature portraits by Rogers and the Smithsonian has three examples.

Three miniatures by Rogers were added to this collection as part of a group of six miniatures offered as a lot by Kaminski Auctions, where none of the artists were identified by the auctioneers. However, the six included three miniatures by Nathaniel Rogers, one of a man against a pale background by Robert Field, one of an older woman by Edward Miles, and a sixth, on the left below by an as yet unidentified American artist.

The auction description was; Kaminski Auctions; "Lot: 3395 - Description: Six (6) miniature portraits, watercolor on ivory, largest is 3 1/4" x 2 1/2". Three (3) have cracked ivory; not examined out of frames. Estimate $300~500"

Although three miniatures were cracked, the lot was sold for a hammer price of $3100, another instance where the sale price was ten times the low estimate. The miniature at the top left is the only identified sitter.

From an inscription on the reverse, his name appears to be Mr. Robert Bloomfield. He is probably the Robert Bloomfield born in 1793 at Hartford, CT, the son of Thomas Bloomfield (1764-?) and his wife, Barbara Lane (1768-?). Barbara being the daughter of Rupert Lane (1732-1800) of Wiltshire England and Rebecca Swain who were married in 1755. That would fit with a miniature painted around 1815-1820. Initially, the miniature could not be attributed, but a kind authority on American miniatures has since advised it appears to be an early Nathaniel Rogers.

Rogers is believed to have met Anson Dickinson in Connecticut before moving to New York in 1807, where he took instruction from P Howell and Uriah Brown, before becoming an apprentice to Joseph Wood in 1811. Thus, Rogers' early work was influenced by those artists, and this can be seen in the Robert Bloomfield miniature. Although the damage adversely affects its value, the miniature does have interest as a named sitter and an early example by Rogers.

Rogers quickly developed his own style, maturing into that of the man on the right and the lady at the bottom left, which are also by Rogers, most likely a husband and wife pair. Although they are in replacement frames their condition is very good for miniatures 200 years old, and better than appears in the above image, as they benefited from the glasses being cleaned. The lady is very similar in appearance to the miniature of Matilda Few of c1815, owned by the Metropolitan Museum, so she and her husband probably date to around 1815. That makes them quite early works by Rogers, as Rogers took over Joseph Wood's practice in 1814. The CAA at the Gibbes Museum owns another Rogers miniature of a not too dissimilar lady named Martha Johnson, which must date to around 1815.

The fact of the two Rogers miniatures being in replacement frames itself is of interest. As I have discussed elsewhere, the art of miniature painting and the obtaining of artist's materials were adversely impacted upon by the Embargo Act and the War of 1812. Ivory itself does not seem to have been hard to obtain, but frames were imported from Britain. From the passing of the Embargo Act, until the aftermath of the 1812 War had passed, the reduced number of miniatures painted during this period tended to be housed in "make-do" frames, made of whatever local materials and scraps were available. These were not well enough or purpose made to last, and hence miniatures painted between 1808 and 1818 have often been given replacement cases. A personal opinion is that genuine "make-do" frames dating from between 1808 and 1818 are important historical relics in their own right, and they should be retained, if a miniature of the period is found housed in one of them.

The man on the left was also in good condition, either British or American, he has not yet been attributed to an artist. The other two cracked miniatures include one by Robert Field and a lady by Edward Miles. Although in poor condition, the two are still helpful for reference purposes.

The fortunate purchase of the three Rogers miniatures at the Kaminski auction, brings the total of Rogers miniatures in this collection to eight. The one of the pretty young lady is especially welcome as "pretty ladies and children" are much harder to find than "boring old men", the previous acquisitions all being males. 1396, 1397, 1398, 1399, 1400, 1401.

The others are shown here in approximate time of painting, so that the development of Rogers style can be seen. The second one is in a "make-do" case of around 1815 with an extra fillet, and the others range through to the rectangular one dating to about 1830, which has an unusual background very similar in style to two portraits of ladies by Rogers in the Metropolitan collection.

Over time, Rogers tended to move from a more angular, gaunt and unsmiling style, reminiscent of Joseph Wood and appropriate to the United States during the time of the 1807 Embargo Act and the resultant War of 1812, to a well-fed and rosy cheeked appearance, with a hint of a smile, during the following years of peace and prosperity! This latter period was a time when more people could afford to have miniatures painted and hence most of Rogers miniatures date from between 1820 and 1835, with his output seeming to cease just prior to the advent of the cold wind of photography. Rogers was only 57 when he died, so could have been even more prolific had he lived longer.
Rogers, Nathaniel - portrait of David Ryerson
Rogers, Nathaniel - portrait of Dana Eleutheros Comstock
Rogers, Nathaniel - portrait of a man
Rogers, Nathaniel - portrait of Master Bucknell
Rogers, Nathaniel - portrait of a young man

Restoration of the Nathaniel Rogers House in Bridgehampton NY is officially underway. The house was built for Rogers in 1842 and known as Hampton House. Its magnificence gives a idea of how important he was as an artist. The house has apparently suffered from deferred maintenance and so the restoration is welcome. These days, the price of the exterior stabilization will be $1.9 million, but that's just a drop in the ionic column compared to the renovation's total expected cost of $4.5 million. Of that sum, the historical society already has commitments of $2.2 million, including $1.1 million from Southampton Town over the next three years. Another $850,000 has come from private donors, and $250,000 from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The building has been listed on the National and New York State Registers of Historic Places.

It is intended to hold a major exhibition of his work in the house on completion. Successful and sympathetic restoration of the project may lead to a resurgence of interest in Rogers who, as with other miniature painters of the 19C and early 20C, has been much under-rated as an artist. The Project welcomes donations.

Restoration of the Nathaniel Rogers House in Bridgehampton NY is officially underway. Scaffolding went up last Thursday in preparation for the removal and restoration of the front columns, which is the first phase of the restoration.
Nathaniel Rogers House Preservation Project

For those interested, there is an extensive article about Rogers at; The Legacy of Nathaniel Rogers (1787-1844) Long Island Artist from ...


Strobel, Louisa Caroline - portrait of William George Bicknell

There were very few American female miniature painters before 1830 and even fewer American female artists of that period who worked outside USA. In fact, this miniature portrait may be the oldest miniature portrait by a female American artist painted outside USA.

The miniature is signed "Louisa C Strobel" for Louisa Caroline Strobel (1806-3 Apr 1883) who was born in Liverpool to American parents, Daniel Strobel Jr (9 Mar 1768-30 Nov 1839) and Ann Church (c1772-?) who were married on 14 Aug 1796 at the British Factory Chaplaincy, Lisboa, Portugal, when Daniel was the first American Minister to Portugal. (For those interested, paintings of Louisa's grandparents. Daniel Strobel Sr (1734-1806) and Mary Elizabetha Martin (1732-1807), can be seen at ) Being diplomatic staff, the family returned to the United States in 1812 on the outbreak of war with Great Britain, when Louisa was aged six. After the war, they moved to Bordeaux in France where her father was the American Consul between 1815 and 1824, until replaced by his son George Strobel, seen here on his mother's knee.

Louisa's father, Daniel Strobel Jr and her mother, appear in these portraits by John Vanderlyn. There has been some confusion over Louisa's middle name and birth date. Most sources including the Metropolitan Museum quote her name as Louisa Catherine Strobel born in 1803, but the IGI records her name as Louisa Caroline Strobel with her birth date as 4 Feb 1806 and her christening as 14 October 1808, the same christening date as her elder sister. Several 19C sources also record her name as Louisa Caroline Strobel and hence this is believed correct.

One of the miniatures in the CAA Collection is of Anna Strobel (Mrs Bicknell) an older sister of Louisa, who married a member of the British Legation. The Collection of the Carolina Art Association owns several family miniatures and speculates; "Where Strobel obtained skill at painting miniatures is not known, but she may have trained with a French artist."

Fortuitously, the miniature of Anna's husband has now emerged and confirms that, as it is demonstrably French in style. Being round, it is even more French than other miniatures by Lousia Strobel which are all oval or rectangular.

The portrait is of William George Bicknell who married Ann Elizabeth Strobel on 24 May 1827 at the British Embassy Chapel, in Paris, France. The reverse is inscribed;
"Born 1797- died 1877
William George Bicknell married Miss Strobel
of USA (S Carolina) daughter of a clergyman.
1st cousin of my gt-grandmother
Emma Georgiana Marescaux".

It therefore seems it was painted in 1827 at the time of Anna's wedding and is probably the earliest surviving work by Louisa.

Ann Elizabeth Strobel was born on 29 December 1801 at Liverpool and was christened there on 14 October 1808. Unfortunately, an opportunity to purchase a miniature portrait of Ann was recently missed. It was unsigned, but appears to have been by Louisa Strobel. It sold at Keys Pictures Auction on 8 October 2010 and was described as Lot 257. 19TH CENTURY ENGLISH SCHOOL, MINIATURE, Portrait of Mrs William George Bicknell, 3" x 3"100-120 - This Item Realised £140" The image can be seen at

William George Bicknell seems to have had a patent granted in 1850;
"William George Bicknell of No 10 Essex-street Strand and James Reginald Torin Graham of the Grove Clapham-common of an Extension of Letters Patent, granted by His late Majesty King William the Fourth, to Miles Berry, of Chancery-lane, for Certain improvements in machinery or apparatus for cleaning purifying and drying wheat or other grain or seeds for the term of six years. Sealed June 7 1850."

And Volume II of Lives of the Most Eminent Foreign Statesmen by G P R James, published in 1836, has a dedication to him as W G Bicknell.

Louisa returned to the United States in 1830 and married on July 1, 1841. She mainly painted family members and reportedly did not paint miniatures after her marriage. Her husband was Rev Benjamin Nicholas Martin (1816-26 Dec, 1883), who was ten years younger than her. He was a graduate of Yale College in 1837 and succeeded Mr Danforth as the eighth pastor of the First Religious Society at Hadley. He was ordained Jan 19 1843 and one report claims he was dismissed on June 9 1847. However, it seems dismissed may just mean resigned, as another report says that he resigned in 1847 "as the climate of Hadley proved unsuited to Mrs Martin's health" to become Pastor of the Fourth Presbyterian Church of Albany. In 1852 he became Professor of Rhetoric and Intellectual Philosophy at the University of the City of New York. "At the time of the infamous New York Riots, July, 1863, a notable instance of his courage for the right appeared when he stood with two or three others in defense of a hunted negro in the face of a crowd of excited pursuers, and rescued him from threatened death."

On his 1883 death nine months after Louisa, it was reported the Rev. Dr. Benjamin Nicholas Martin, Professor of Logic and Intellectual and Moral Philosophy in the University of the city of New York, died recently at his home in this city of acute bronchitis. He was very popular with the students, and worked hard for the interests of the University. He was the author of many theological essays and of several books. Louisa and Benjamin were both buried at New Haven alongside Louisa's father and brother.

Louisa and Benjamin had an only son, Daniel Strobel Martin, born June 30, 1842 at NYC. He attained his Ph.D in 1881 and taught Geology at Rutgers and Cooper Union. On his death he bequeathed six Strobel family portraits to the CAA. There are also five miniatures, mainly of family members, by her in the Metropolitan Museum. One further miniature attributed to Louisa is of Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams, wife of President John Quincy Adams.

Louisa's works are thus rare although there is one other miniature by her in this collection. It is signed Louisa C Strobel on the right hand edge. It is of a young lady in a white dress as showing here, and judging by the hair and clothes, it must date close to 1840.

The two miniatures therefore represent examples from the beginning and the end of her short career. 218, 1393


Russell, Moses Baker - portrait of Josiah Quincy III

The previous owner of this miniature portrait believed it to be of Josiah Quincy III (1772-1864), the second Mayor of Boston, prior to that a U.S. Representative for Boston in the U.S. Congress and later President of Harvard University, with Quincy Market being named after him. I am currently unable to confirm that as the correct identification, but have shown a photo of Josiah Quincy III for comparison. This miniature is dated 1841, when Quincy would have been aged 69, but it is possible the miniature may be of a slightly younger man.

Nevertheless it is an exceptionally fine character portrait by Moses B Russell (1809-1884). Russell worked in Boston for more than fifty years as a portraitist in both oils and miniatures. In 1839 he married Clarissa Peters, who has since become famous as the miniaturist Mrs M B Russell.

The style and quality of Moses' miniatures varied considerably over his career, as did his method of signing his work. His earlier works were of better quality, being painted before the advent of photography and the daguerreotype which came to dominate from 1839 onwards.

However, as daguerreotypes were much cheaper to produce and had the wonder of new technology, they became very popular and undercut the business of the miniature painter. Hence both Moses and Clarissa tended to seek a point of difference with their miniatures from 1840 onwards. Clarissa focused on children in a stylized format with round faces and big eyes. These have become very valuable, although their technical quality is indifferent. After that date, Moses often tended to copy her style in an effort to retain business.

This miniature by Moses is signed and dated "M B Russell Pinxit 1841". It is therefore at an interesting stage of his work. Moses was experiencing the cold winds of competition from photography, and with this miniature one can see his first wide use of pastel tones for the face and background.

These pastel tones arose from the invention of new colors derived from chemical, rather than natural, bases. These new colors gave rise to Impressionism in Europe later in the 19C, and with this portrait, there are almost overtones of experimentation in an Impressionistic manner. This cannot have been commercially successful for Moses, as by 1844 he had reverted to more traditional background colors as shown in the 1844 portrait of a young man below.

Also showing here is the framemaker's label inside the casework, "Made at Smith's, No. 2, Milk St., Opposite Old South, Boston." Smith was used by the premier miniature painters of Boston at the time, and in this collection there are miniatures by Alvan Clark (1804-1887) and Richard Morrell Staigg (1817-1881) with the same framemaker's label. 1390

Within this collection there are several other miniatures by Moses B Russell. Two of them being signed on the reverse. In addition there are a couple of unsigned works which are attributed to him. Below is an unsigned attribution of a young lady in a pink dress, also a young lady in a dark dress which has an incised signature on the front and an inked signature on the reverse and is dated 1835. The portrait of the young man is signed in ink on the reverse and is dated 1844.

Russell, Moses B - portrait of girl in a pink dress

Russell, Moses B - portrait of a young lady...

Russell, Moses B - portrait of a young man