This miniature portrait of Ann Elizabeth Strobel, painted by her sister, Louisa Caroline Strobel, is a testament to the amazing power of the Internet and a heart warming story.
Ann Elizabeth Strobel was born on 29 December 1801 at Liverpool and was christened there on 14 October 1808. The link at
1808 - Lancashire OnLine Parish Clerk Project records her christening and also that of her sister. The record shows Louisa's middle name was Caroline, although most reference books show her name as Louisa Catherine Strobel. (The confusion appears to have arisen in that there was a Louisa Catherine Strobel, who was born in Charleston SC on 29 Sep 1796. But she died there on 14 Apr 1797 and was unrelated.)
A couple of months ago, I discussed an American miniature portrait I had been fortunate to acquire from an auction on eBay in Britain. It was of William George Bicknell and painted by his sister-in-law, Louisa Caroline Strobel. The vendor had purchased the portrait at a local auction and then offered it on eBay.
While I was researching that miniature I came across to a reference to a miniature of the wife of William George Bicknell which had just been sold at a UK country auction for £140. From viewing the picture, it was obvious that the portrait, although unsigned was also by Louisa Caroline 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"
Naturally it was extremely disappointing to realise the portrait of husband and wife had been split up after so many years together.
Then just before Christmas 2010, I was browsing on the Internet for the name Strobel, and was flabbergasted to see that the miniature of Ann Elizabeth Strobel was now on offer at another country auction at Lacy Scott & Knight, about 50 miles from where it had been sold previously. As the miniature was unsigned, the auction listing did not identify the artist, and had also misspelled Strobel as Stzobel. Thus I was fairly confident that any other collectors of American miniature portraits seeing the auction listing would not realise who it was by and how valuable it was.
But, on looking at the auction date, I saw that the auction was to take place within the next 24 hours, on 11 December 2010, so I immediately sent off an email with quite a high bid, as I felt I had to reunite the two portraits. Although I had never bid with the auction house before, they kindly accepted my absentee bid.
To my great relief, I was successful well below my limit, at a hammer price of £220. That gave the previous owner a profit, but if it had been sold in USA, the hammer price would have been far higher.
The next worry was for a safe arrival! What with the Christmas postal rush, and airports in the UK being closed by snow, it took a month to reach me, whereas packages normally take less than a week. Thus, it was a very stressful wait, and a great relief when the parcel finally arrived safely, over five weeks after the auction!
Hence the miniature now appears here, together with the miniature of her husband, William George Bicknell. Here the inscription reads "Mrs William George Bicknell nee Anna Elizabeth Strobel of S Carolina, grandmother of Eleanor Lloyd nee Bicknell. Her husband was 1st cousin to my gt-grandmother, Emma Georgiana Marescaux (born 1800)." For much more about the artist, Louisa Caroline Strobel and her family, see View
I am not a superstitious person, but cannot help feeling that my hand and eye were guided, somehow, to reunite the portraits. Yes, there are such things as coincidences, but the mathematical probability against seeing and then procuring both portraits must be astronomical!
A VERY noteworthy thing, for owners of miniatures, is that apart from incredible luck, it was only possible to reunite the portraits as a previous family member had left very detailed notes on the sitters. I can only urge that owners of miniatures (and photographs) please write the details on the reverse. Any one who has made even the slightest attempt to research family history, will know how frustrating it is to come across family photos without any indication of the sitter. Apart from anything else a miniature of a named sitter, is normally twice as valuable as the same miniature, if the sitter was unknown. With an additional premium if the artist is also known. Thus, showing the name of the sitter on the reverse, also protects the value of a family's inheritance.
As mentioned previously, miniatures by Louisa Caroline Strobel are rare, but there are miniatures by her of her family in the Gibbes Museum. These can be viewed at http://gibbesmuseum.pastperfect-online.com/36029cgi/mweb.exe?request=keyword;keyword=strobel;dtype=i;subset=100 Those portraits include another miniature of Ann Elizabeth Strobel at a slightly older age, also painted by Louisa. The Metropolitan Museum also has miniatures of by Louisa. Taken together, the Strobel family miniatures here and at the Gibbes Museum, must represent one of the most painted families in America, in miniature portrait form. 1393, 1402.
Much Later - A kind visitor has sent me information on another portrait by Louisa Strobel, which I have added here for the information of anyone researching her.