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

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