It is very rare to be able to identify both the sitter and the artist, when a miniature portrait is acquired as an unnamed sitter by an unnamed artist. The following discoveries were therefore very satisfying.
Followers of eBay listings may have noticed this miniature portrait offered for auction in November 2011 by a vendor in England who has gradually been selling a very large collection of British miniatures over a period of several months. Many of the items have been very nice, but this is the only one to be bid on and purchased for this collection.
It may help new collectors to show the steps in researching this miniature portrait, to illustrate how a combination of study, and some luck! - is very helpful in purchasing art of any kind. The vendor described the miniature as;
Stunning Regency portrait miniature with an ormolu mount. - Please find for sale an absolutely incredible and stunning quality Regency portrait miniature of a lady. It is painted in oil with amazing details to her features in a beautiful ormolu mount. The frame housed in a tooled leather case measures 17cm x 15cm, the oil measures 8.5cm x 6.5cm and is offered in good condition.
Although they appear to be innocent, there are several errors in the description.
1 - It is not a Regency portrait, instead it was painted 30 years later.
2 - It is not painted in oils, instead it is in watercolour.
3 - While the condition is very good, there is some retouching on the right edge.
Immediately obvious is the superior quality, such that the miniature appeared to be by the highly regarded American artist, John Henry Brown (1818-1891).
As Dale Johnson noted, "Brown imitated photography so closely that his miniatures became virtually indistinguishable from hand-colored photographs". There were several reasons for believing this.
1 - The overall quality, pose, and attention to detail.
2 - Especially the way the lace was painted.
3 - The style of framing. Most of Brown's portraits in his middle and later period were framed in expensive frames similar in design to that depicted here.
However, one point of nervousness was that, even though the vendor had removed it from the frame to make images for the eBay listing, there was no reference to a signature, whereas Brown normally signed his miniatures. Although it has been suggested he did not sign miniatures of deceased sitters if the portrait was in an opaltype format showing only the head of the sitter. They were produced as a hand-coloured opaltype image, which probably explains why he did not sign them. The apparent lack of a signature on this miniature therefore suggested that either the miniature was of a deceased person or it was signed, but the vendor had not noticed the signature. The latter seemed possible, as Brown's signatures are very small.
The arrival of the miniature was therefore eagerly awaited, in the hope the vendor had missed the signature. On arrival the hunch was proved correct, as the miniature was found to be signed on the left, in letters little more than one millimetre high, "J. Hy. Brown. 1860". The image here has been enhanced to make the signature clearer.
One could say that was the result of study and experience, but the next stage of research to identify the sitter required some luck! Especially when I was dismayed to see that an earlier owner (not the vendor) had tried to remove a label inside which had named the sitter. Removing names from a miniature by descendants on the sale of a miniature is absolutely dreadful and very disrespectful to the memory of the sitter. I have said elsewhere, it is the equivalent of someone digging up and destroying the gravestone of their ancestor! Very little remains but perhaps reads;
...................... wife of
Will ........... (Pres?)cod ...... but possibly instead (Daguerr)eo.
.....M(other?) ... &.. Cost
However, in this instance there was luck in that the miniature is dated 1860. By chance Brown's 1860 portraits had received close study from me about four years ago. The Rosenbach Museum was kind enough to forward me photos of Brown's workbook for 1860, in connection with a portrait of Maria Charlotte Gouverneur, the wife of General Thomas Cadwalader, which is in this collection. See View It is the one on the left below. I was later sent a photo by a visitor of a miniature portrait of Mary Destouet, nee Maria Morgan, also painted by Brown in 1860 and described as being copied from a daguerreotype. More about that miniature appears in the Guest Gallery. See View
It is very interesting to compare the two miniatures, both painted in 1860. The dresses are identical, barely varying even in the fine details of the lace. I think Brown must have used the Cadwalader miniature as a model for the Destouet dress, as even the way the bottom of the lace caps are draped on the two sitter's shoulders is identical. This perhaps seems unusual, but it may be that the pose, or the clothing fashion worn, in the Destouet daguerreotype was unsuitable and hence Brown posed Mary Destouet in the fashion of 1860, as worn by Maria Cadwalader.
Anyway, as a result of that research a list of Brown's twenty portraits painted in 1860 was luckily available on a CD for study. By a process of elimination, it has been determined that the new miniature appears to be of Mrs Emily Hinds. Brown's handwritten list records:
1 Mrs Samuel S Shober, $155
2 Louis P Holliday, dec'd, copy from dag, $125
3 Mrs Emily Hinds, copy from dag, $175
4 Samuel Ingham, a babe, dec'd from dag, $150
5 Thomas B Wattson Esq, $180
6 Wm Shipper jun, dec'd, from a dag, $155
7 Henry Pepper, dec'd, from a dag, $155
8 Frank Lewis, dec'd from a dag, $125
9 Mrs Gen Tho Cadwalader, $180
10 Mrs Hartman Kuhn, $180
11 Mrs Dr Worts, dec'd, from a dag, $180
12 Mrs Denagse (Denagre?), from a dag, $155
13 Kearsley Carters babe, dec'd, from a dag, $155
14 Mrs Keppeles, $150
15 Lieut Beale, $155
16 Abraham Lincoln, Republican Candidate for President, $175
17 Mrs Destouet, from a dag, $180
18 Mrs Thos B Wattson, $225
19 Edward Buckley's two children, $280
20 Miss Cornelia Rodgers, $180
The process of elimination was;
Already identified above - 9,17
Males or children - 2,4,5,6,7,8,13,15,16,19.
Unmarried woman - 20
From the residual inscription it appeared the sitter's husband's name was William, so eliminate - 1,10,18.
That left - 3,11,12,14
Further research established that the first name of the husband's of numbers 11 and 14 was not William. Number 12 was a Mrs Denagse who was from New Orleans. The name Denagse is an uncommon French name and the name William is not often spelled that way in France. That left only number 3. There appear to be two possibilities.
Firstly - Brown records Mrs Emily Hinds as residing in Philadelphia. She was thus perhaps Emily Hinds (26 April 1805-21 April 1862), wife of Rev William Prescod Hinds (3 June 1795-23 January 1859). His christening is recorded in Barbadoes on 8 July 1795 at WILLIAM PRESCOD HINDS as son of Dr Samuel Hinds (c1763-?) and Eleanor Lytcott (c1763-?), both of whom were apparently born and died in Barbados, with William being the middle of seven children. There is a reference to Prescod Hinds being involved in the transfer of 12 slaves in 1804 at Barbados Slave Lists - Creole Links which would appear to be the same family.
Being part of the large Hinds clan, Emily's brother, Samuel, was also prominent in Barbados, as indicated in this report of his life;
Samuel Maxwell Hinds was born in the parish of St Michael, Barbados, on 12th May 1795 and baptised in that parish on 30th June 1795. He was the eldest son of Benjamin Hinds and Ann Maxwell, both of the parish of St Michael, who had married in that parish on 1st July 1794. He was named after his grandfather, Samuel. The Hinds family had been among the earliest English settlers on Barbados and, by the mid-18th century, had become substantial and widespread landowners, with properties in the parishes of St Peter, St Michael and St Lucy. The family sent three successive generations, of which Samuel Maxwell Hinds was the last, to represent the parish of St Peter in the Barbados House of Assembly between 1773 and 1839. Samuel's father, Benjamin - who was one of the two representatives for St Peter between 1795 and his death in 1807 - was Honorary Treasurer for the island 1805-07 and Chief Justice in the Court of Common Pleas for the parish of St Peter. Samuel was sent to England to be educated and entered Charterhouse School in July 1803; his brother, Thomas Maxwell Hinds (1799-1838) joined him there in 1807. He attended Charterhouse until August 1812, one of his close friends at the school, Henry Havelock (later Major General Sir Henry Havelock, Bart. KCB [1795-1857]), remembering him thus: "Hinds, a man of taste and a poet, spent his early years in travelling, married in France, distinguished himself in one of the colonial assemblies of his native island, Barbadoes, at the period of slave emancipation and died in Bath about 1847": Marshman, J.C. "Memoirs of Major General Sir Henry Havelock KCB" (London, 1860, p.6). Details of Samuel's travels are not known but his marriage, to Louise Victorine Ste. Rose Durand, took place in the chapel of the British Embassy in Paris on 16th September 1820. Samuel and his wife may have returned to Barbados by the following year since there is a suggestion that he was acting Governor of the island in 1821, between the governorship of Lieutenant-General Lord Combermere (1773-1865) and that of Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Warde KCB (1766-1834): this reference may, though, refer to one of his numerous Barbadian namesakes and kinsmen. In 1823 Samuel was elected one of the two representatives for the parish of St Peter in the Barbados House of Assembly and continued to represent the parish until 1839, being elected Speaker for the session of 1836-37 and remaining as Speaker for the next two annual sessions of the House, in 1837-38 and 1838-39. In 1839, Samuel and his wife left Barbados to settle in England. Samuel Maxwell Hinds died in Bath on 19th May 1847, a week after his 52nd birthday. His widow subsequently commissioned a window in the chapel of All Saints, parish of St Peter, Barbados, in memory of her late husband, the inscription reading: "To the memory of Samuel Maxwell Hinds, sometime Speaker of the House of Assembly of this Island. This window is erected by his widow". The Arms of Samuel Hinds, as engraved upon the wine coolers, are recorded in Barbados in 1820, as: Gules, a chevron Or between three stags trippant; crest, out of a coronet, a wyvern; motto, VIGILO ET SPERO.
It appears that a close relation of William Prescod Hinds was Samuel Jackman Prescod (1806-1871), (depicted here), the first person of African descent to be elected to Barbados's Parliament in 1843. Prescod was born as the son of a free coloured mother, Lidia Smith, and a wealthy white father, William Prescod. Although it was said that Prescod bore "no distinguishing marks of negro complexion" he was still subject to the racial discrimination endemic at that time. But after a law change in 1831, he helped found the Liberal Party, whose following included small landowners, businessmen, and coloured clerks. The Barbadian parliament later enacted that he should be called "The Right Excellent" and that his life be celebrated on National Heroes Day (28 April) in Barbados. As there also seems to be a likeness to Emily, it is possible she was partly African-American.
The British National Archives include a letter from T. H. Orderson to Bishop Howley, Christ Church, Apr. 8, 1819 which encloses records relating to the formation of a Barbados Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge and introduces William Prescod Hinds a candidate for orders, who refers to himself as the senior clergyman on the island. His ordination is recorded at William Prescod Hinds, 18/7/1819 and his marriage is recorded at WILLIAM PRESCOD HINDS in Barbados on 12 April 1821 to Emily Hinds, so it seems she may have been his cousin. Her parents being Benjamin and Ann Hinds, with Benjamin being a planter and sugar merchant on Barbados. Emily was christened on 23 November 1805 in Barbados, see EMILY HINDS Further probable references to them are in 1841 and 1847 which mention Rev William S Hinds, an Episcopalian minister of Philadelphia. Emily's age in early 1860 would then be 54, to compare with the miniature, but as Brown notes it was copied from a daguerreotype, it could well be from a portrait taken several years earlier. Emily is buried at Christ Church Burial Ground, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, USA, Plot: Section E, Plot LXXV.
This portrait of Rev W P Hinds is in the NYPL. The Reverend was a very wealthy man; after his death it was recorded in February 1859 by the New York Evening Express; A Rich Clergyman - The late Rev. William Prescod Hinds, of Philadelphia, unlike most clergymen was the possessor of an ample fortune, and unlike the generality of those who possess much of the world's worth, he administered upon his own estate while living. It is stated by a contemporary, that "his estate is valued at a million of dollars. He gave a thousand dollars to his clergyman, eleven houses to his wife, fifteen houses to a married daughter, and about the same number to a daughter unmarried, to be held in trust until her majority. He left no public bequests."
A complimentary obituary of him is recorded at The lives of eminent Philadelphians, now deceased - Page 533 . William Prescod Hinds was born in Barbadoes on the 3d day of June 1795. His family was one of the oldest and wealthiest in the island, of which his father was sometime President, and his brother the Attorney-General. His first cousin was Dr Hinds, the Bishop of Norwich, and another cousin is spoken of by General Havelock in his autobiography. William Prescod Hinds was educated chiefly in England in the celebrated school of Mr Phillips at Frenchay. It was said his extensive and well selected library of the choicest books seemed as much in his mind as on his shelves. In an accurate and critical knowledge of Latin and Greek and their best writers he had few if any superiors, while his wonderful memory was stored with the richest treasures of history. After ordination he returned to Barbadoes and was successively rector of two parishes in that island. After a ministry of fourteen years his health failed him and he was incapacitated for public duty by a disease of the throat. In 1834 that he moved to Philadelphia He officiated a few times in churches, but finding his voice was nearly destroyed by disease he was compelled to resign public ministry. Although with ample means to have surrounded himself with all the show and glitter of pomp and vanity he was distinguished for the plainness and simplicity of his mode of life as he cared little for money. One report noted. "We speak from our own knowledge, when we say that no case of real need was ever presented to him which did not meet a prompt and liberal response. And from every part of the country the missionaries who came to Philadelphia, asking aid for their poor churches, can bear witness to the cheerfulness and liberality with which he answered their appeals".
The 1859 estate of $1,000,000 could approximate $50,000,000 in the 21C. From that report it appears they had two daughters. They also had a son Samuel Hinds but he died at age ten (18 April 1830-17 May 1840). Their married daughter was Ann Hinds (24 May 1826-?) who married William Grassett Thomas (7 Apr 1822-19 Nov 1910) on 21 May 1850, and the then unmarried daughter was Rose Hinds. Ann and William Thomas went on to have nine children and hence some of their descendants are likely still alive. It also seems likely that this portrait of Emily Hinds was taken to England by a descendant of her daughter Ann.
It is interesting to note Emily had this portrait painted in early 1860, only 12 months after her husband's death, presumably as she emerged from mourning. One wonders if Emily had wanted a portrait painted at an earlier stage, but "the plainness and simplicity of his mode of life" meant William would not agree to it? Perhaps as a further sign of Emily becoming her "own woman", she applied for naturalization, which was granted on 2o December 1861. However, this new freedom did not last long as she died on 21 April 1862.
Secondly - there is another possible candidate for Mrs Emily Hinds, as it was noted that the husband of Emily Barrow (1829-1909) was William S Hinds (1820-1901), who she married in Baltimore on 6 January 1853, as his second wife. Her age would then be 31, to compare to the portrait. Emily Barrow appears to be the daughter of Denwood Hicks Barrow and the full name of William Hinds is likely to be William Swiggett Hinds, son of Thomas Hinds and Levina Swiggett. There is also a partial reference in The Christian Advocate reading; "William S. Hinds was born in Seaford. Del., July 20. 1820. His early life was spent In his native State until 1843, when he became a resident of Baltimore, where be died in the Christian faith Oct. 20 ...".
It is not yet certain which Mrs Emily Hinds is the sitter in the miniature, but it seems more likely it is the wife of Rev William Prescod Hinds.
Observant visitors will have noticed the reference to President Abraham Lincoln as number 16. The miniature portrait of him by John Henry Brown is now in the Smithsonian and can be seen at Abraham Lincoln by John Henry Brown
Additionally, there are several other miniature portraits by John Henry Brown in this collection, three being half length portraits of women and three being bust opaltype portraits, mainly in similar distinctive frames and poses to the above examples. The sight sizes are also similar, being either 85mm or 115mm high, but adjusted here for display. The three half length women are L to R;
Mrs Ringold Wilmer, nee Antoinette Tesseire, see View
Mrs Anthony Tesseire, nee Eliza Caroline Morgan, see View
Mrs John Hone, nee Maria Cadwalader, see View
It is a little eerie to think that these three women, together with the three at top above; Mrs Emily Hinds, Mrs General Thomas Cadwalader, and Mrs Maria Destouet most probably knew, or at least knew of, each other as leading members of Philadelphia Society, and are now "meeting" again, in the form of their portraits, 150 years later. The population of Philadelphia being 565,000 in 1860, and rising to 2,070,000 in 1950, before declining to 1,526,000 in 2010.
Another possible portrait by Brown is of Mrs Metcalfe in a brown striped dress, see View
Also one of a young lady in an oval metal case. Again, it is not as certain that this is by Brown, but it does seem likely, see View
The bust portraits against a white background are probably of deceased sitters, they are believed to be opaltypes available at a lesser price due to the use of a photographic process and the absence of a background. See View and View, 1454
There is an interesting transcription of Brown's journal by the Rosenbach Museum at John Henry Brown » Today in the Civil War
Yale University has recorded the following note about John Henry Brown and photography;
Brown owed his popularity to an uncanny ability to imitate photography in his attention to detail and high degree of contrast, yet also to mimic oil painting in his brilliant, opaque colors and complex compositions, while remaining true to the miniature tradition in feeling and format. He embraced the new photographic medium by acknowledging his debt to daguerreotypes and later ambrotypes for many of his miniature portraits, including that of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. His miniatures based on photographs were often posthumous portraits, reflecting the increased demand for mourning miniatures after mid-century. He painted for a broad clientele, including members of the established as well as new merchant elite.
In the 1860s, however, Brown's level of patronage began to decline. In his journal, he attributed his situation to the sense of impending war and the growing preference for photographic images. In October 1864, he joined the existing photography practice of Frederick August Wenderoth and William Curtis Taylor to form Wenderoth, Taylor, and Brown. The Philadelphia firm was one of the pioneers in addressing the public's desire for colored photographs. The enterprising Wenderoth introduced Ivorytypes, colored photographs on glass, to America in 1855. The firm also produced Opalotypes, photographic images on opaque white glass, which Brown then tinted with washes of color in imitation of portrait miniatures. The partners also offered their clientele a choice of media by advertising "Fine Photographs and Paintings of every Description."
In the 1870s, Brown rededicated himself to his career as a miniature painter, exhibiting at the National Academy and at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition. For clients demanding both the traditional and contemporary, Brown's distinctive miniatures seamlessly combined the longevity of the miniature format, and its associations with social refinement, with the popular aesthetics of photography. Many miniaturists flirted with the profession of photographer; unlike Brown, few of them returned to limning in watercolor on ivory.
Later, a collector, who I know to have a very fine collection of American miniatures, has emailed me advising that the above list of 1860 miniature portraits by Brown, has now enabled the collector to narrow down and identify the miniature depicted as number 15, as being of Lieutenant Edward Fitzgerald Beale (February 4, 1822 – April 22, 1893) who was a national figure in 19th century America. He achieved national fame in 1848 in carrying to the east the first gold samples from California, contributing to the gold rush.
He surveyed and built a wagon road that many settlers used to move to the West, and which became part of Route 66 and the route for the Transcontinental railroad. As California's first Superintendent of Indian Affairs, Beale helped charter a humanitarian policy towards Native Americans in the 1850s. He also founded the Tejon Ranch in California, the largest private landholding in the United States, and became a millionaire several times over.
The collector had acquired it at a Freeman's auction in 2011 where it was described only as;
Lot 1142 - John Henry Brown (1818-1891) - portrait of a gentleman with muttonchop whiskers. Signed, "J.H. Brown 1860," watercolor on ivory, in a gilt locket frame fitted with beribboned locket of hair at back. 2 in. x 1 3/4 in.
Browns's price for that miniature was $155 which suggests that the lower price for some miniatures was due to them being head only portraits, thus requiring less time and sittings to paint them. Given more examples, it may become possible to match together more of Brown's miniatures with his workbook.
Later again - In February 2012 a miniature portrait of Emily's brother, Samuel Maxwell Hinds, who is discussed above, was sold on eBay for £266.
Unfortunately it was too expensive to be able to add to this collection, given its relatively poor condition. It appearing to suffer from quite bad foxing.
According to the vendor it was inscribed on the reverse; "SAMUEL MAXWELL HINDS OF BATH & GIBBEST COLLYNNS, BARBADOS". The miniature has been added here just for the benefit of any Hinds family researchers.