Dodge, John Wood - portrait of a man

This American miniature portrait is an example of a mistaken purchase that was compensated by a changed attribution! It was offered as Buy It Now and described (after correcting the spelling and grammatical errors!) as;

Hand-painted in 1820-1850 portrait on ivory, with sterling silver frame. Subject is very cute young man. Magnificent quality, painting is not signed. Glass on the top is not original, frame is original by the size. Picture frame is sterling silver, not marked, 100% sterling silver guaranteed. Condition: painting is good condition, no cracks, no scratches, but a very small chip on the ivory, on the left side, very minor. Picture frame is very good condition, no restoration, no repairs.

The description was mostly accurate, except that the frame was obviously not original. The quality is clear, with a first instinct to attribute it to Nathaniel Rogers (1787-1844) who painted works of this quality but rarely signed his paintings. However, there was a niggle that perhaps it was not by him. The process of attribution being complicated by the distraction of the peculiar frame, which is at least 100 years more recent.

On arrival it was possible to take a closer look and revise the opinion to attribute it instead to John Wood Dodge (1807-1893) another prolific artist, with his account book listing over 1100 miniatures. He commenced his life in New York, but in 1841 moved to Nashville and cultivated fruit orchards, while still moving about a wider area to paint miniatures. Dodge almost invariably signed the reverse of his miniatures, usually also identifying the sitter. That was not the case here. It appearing that the original frame had been reused for something else and the backing paper removed at the same time. The nibble on the left hand side was likely original to the miniature and covered by the original frame.

Thus, although it is disappointing not to know the sitter, the miniature is by a respected artist. It can be compared with other works in the collection by John Wood Dodge; such as Eliza M Eastman see View and Reuben Kreider see View

Also of Eliza Jane Moffitt Budd see View

These three examples illustrate that he identified his sitters. That one was cracked when it was purchased was unfortunate, but it does illustrate the need to allow miniatures to shrink naturally across the grain.

In this case the original framer attached it too firmly to card, so when the miniature dried over time it split vertically. It could be reframed to close the gap, but that would mean destroying the inscription on the reverse, so it has been left as it is.

As with most artists, Dodge's style changed a little over the years, but many of his works have a shadow on the right which, because of its shape, is often referred to as his "thumbprint" shadow. The intensity of this shadow varied over his career, as with the two women showing here, but is a good clue to his works. 1452

No comments: