This miniature portrait is an engraving, rather than a miniature painted on ivory. Engravings are really outside the main theme of this collection, but being an early and interesting example of an American portrait it is worthy of inclusion. The type of portrait is also called a Physionotrace and originated in France. For an interesting paper on the subject see Precursors of photography: Early Visual Media - Physionotrace ...
This example was advertised on eBay at a modest Buy It Now price of $90 as;
Offered for sale is this interesting miniature c1700s plate engraving. Piece was acquired form a Berks County, Pennsylvania estate. This shows a 1700s gentleman, in that era's attire. Looks to be of political genre. We have been unable to determine who this is. There is a description of gentleman under the engraving. However due to age and fade we are unable to fully read what it states. We also have found there to be a pencil signed name on back. But again it is extremely faded and very hard to see with the naked eye.
My reaction was immediately that it was a St Memin portrait engraving, similar to one of Christopher Grant Champlin which was acquired several years ago, see View That was not in very good condition but had represented an opportunity to include a named artist and sitter in the collection.
On arrival I looked closely at the rear of the portrait for the name, but could only make out that the second name might start Shipper..., perhaps Shipperton or Shipperman, but it could also start Chipper...
From a cursory glance the very faint engraved name under the portrait appeared to be St Memin, so I searched for the portrait in the excellent catalogue of St Memin's work by Ellen Miles. However, that was unsuccessful, so I wrote to the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery to see if the portrait was known.
I received a very kind reply which identified the sitter, but provided a completely unexpected answer in respect of the artist!
The portrait engraving you have is actually the work of Saint-Memin's Philadelphia student/partner Louis Lemet. The sitter is Col. Joseph Shippen (1732-1810). I don't have any biographical information on him, but no doubt he is a Philadelphian, since the Shippens were a prominent Philadelphia family.
The original drawing for the portrait is owned by the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia. They may also own an example of the engraving. I have been told that the Worcester (Massachusetts) Art Museum also has an engraving, but I can't tell from my notes if I have actually seen it! The engraving appears to be inscribed: Drawn & engrd. By L LeMet. Philada. The letters "d" of engrd and "a" at the end of Philada are both raised. There is information on Lemet in the Saint-Memin book.
Whereas St Memin is well documented, I had never heard of Louis Lemet (1779-1832) so it was interesting to find out a little about him. Around 1799 St Memin took Lemet, a French emigre as his assistant, before beginning an itinerant life. However, Lemet remained in Philadelphia until 1805, when he moved to Albany where he advertised;
Physiognotrace Likenesses Engraved. L Lemet, respectfully informs the ladies and gentlemen of Albany that he takes likenesses in crayon as large as life, and engraves them of a reduced size in a new and elegant style. The price of the large likenesses, with an engraved plate and twelve impressions, is $25 for gentlemen, and $35 for ladies, or $8 for the drawing only. For further particulars apply at his room at Capt. Lockwood's, the corner of Dock and State street, where a great number of portraits of distinguished characters may be seen.
The engraving is in a gilded frame of fairly standard design which appears to be the original frame and was presumably made by Lemet himself, as he appears to have later advertised himself as a frame maker under the name of Lewis Lemet.
He then worked at Albany NY from 1805-1828.
It appears that Lemet engravings are less common than those of St Memin, so is welcome as an example of his work.
As can be seen (or as cannot be seen!) the writing on the reverse is almost impossible to read, so I am very grateful that NPG was able to identify the sitter as Col. Joseph Shippen. He was born October 30, 1732 at Philadelphia and married Jane Galloway on 29 Sept 1768 and he died in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, February 10, 1810. They had ten children. He was the uncle of Peggy Shippen, who became the wife of Benedict Arnold. He is often described as Joseph Shippen Jr. despite his father being referred to as Edward Shippen. It is believed this was to either to distinguish between, son, father, and grandfather.
Joseph Edward Shippen (1667-1741)
(Joseph?) Edward Shippen (1701-1781)
Joseph Shippen Jr (1732-1810)
or perhaps instead to distinguish him from his uncle, "Gentleman Joe", Joseph Shippen.
The first Shippen in America was Edward Shippen, of Cheshire, England, who was persecuted in Boston for the sin of being a Quaker, and removed to Philadelphia to become its honored Mayor. It then being a habit in the Shippen family to be Mayors of Philadelphia. Living near Mr. Shippen 's fine old mansion on Orange Street, (showing here c1830 and more recently below) Christopher Marshall, who was often severe in his strictures upon the joys of life, recorded in his diary, of Sunday, July 26, 1778, a bit of pleasant sociability with Mr. Shippen, with, whom he walked home from the " Dutch Presbyterian Meeting House," where they had listened to a discourse from "one Fifer, minister of the Church of England." "Returned with Shippen," he wrote, "who pressed me to stop at his house, and drink a glass of beer of his own brewing."
A less peaceful Sunday than this of July 26th, when Mr. Marshall and Mr. Shippen drank beer of the latter's own brewing, was that Sunday in December, 1763, when Mr. Shippen (as showing here, father of the sitter), as chief burgess of Lancaster, was called out of church in consequence of a sudden foray of the Paxton boys, who suddenly appeared in the yard of the Swan Inn, as Mr. Shippen said in his report to the Governor, "upwards of a hundred armed men from the post road rode very fast into town, turned their horses into Mr. Slough '& and proceeded with the greatest precipitation to the workhouse, where they stove in the door and killed all the Indians."
The premeditated murder, in cold blood, of these captive Conestogas by men who belonged to a civilized nation has been described as one of the blackest pages in the history of Pennsylvania.
After the death of Edward Shippen, his fine old mansion on Orange Street passed into the hands of his son Edward, the Chief Justice, whose daughter Peggy was the wife of Benedict Arnold. The house was afterwards bought by Joseph Shippen, another son of Edward of Lancaster. This Joseph Shippen (the sitter), who lived for a time in the old Lancaster home, was an able man, a public-spirited citizen, a soldier and, withal, something of a gallant, as is proved by his " Lines Written in an Assembly Room," (see below)
After his death in 1810 the old home passed into the hands of Edward Shippen Burd and was later bought by the Honorable Walter Franklin, Attorney-General of the Common
wealth and an honored citizen of Lancaster. After being in the Franklin family for
twenty-six years, the Shippen House became the property of Mr. Emanuel C. Reigart. It was later demolished and the YWCA building now stands on the site.
The sitter, Joseph Shippen, Jr., graduated at Princeton in 1753, and shortly afterward entered the provincial army, in which he rose to the rank of colonel, and served in the expedition that captured Fort Du Quesne. After the troops were disbanded he went to Europe, partly on a mercantile venture, but chiefly for travel. He returned to Philadelphia in 1761, and in the following year was chosen to succeed the Reverend Richard Peters as secretary of the Province Council (1762-1776). After eleven years of strict attention he represented to the Council that "£11 a year was by no means an adequate satisfaction for his services". However, he continued to hold the post until the Revolution, when the provincial council ceased to exist. He subsequently removed to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where in 1789 he became a judge of the Lancaster county courts (1789-1810). He was fond of the fine arts, early noted Benjamin West's genius, and, with William Allen and other friends, greatly aided him with means for pursuing his artistic studies in Italy, for which West was grateful during life. Benjamin West painted Joseph's wife, Jane Galloway in this portrait which is owned by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, 1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia. Joseph was for more than forty years a member of the American philosophical society.
His father was a well known early settler, Edward Shippen (Boston, Massachusetts, July 9, 1703 – Lancaster, Pennsylvania, September 25, 1781) who was a wealthy merchant and government official in colonial Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Edward Shippen entered into mercantile pursuits with James Logan, with whom he was in business from 1732 as the firm of Logan and Shippen. Afterward he went into the fur trade with Thomas Lawrence, as the firm of Shippen and Lawrence. In 1744 he was elected mayor of Philadelphia. In 1745 and for several years thereafter, he served as a judge of the Court of Common Pleas. In May 1752, he moved to Lancaster, where he was appointed prothonotary, as which he served until 1778. He had large transactions as paymaster for supplies for the British and provincial forces when they were commanded by General John Forbes, General John Stanwix, and Colonel Bouquet, and managed them with so much integrity as to receive public thanks in 1760. He was a county judge under both the provincial and state governments.
In early life Edward Shippen laid out and founded the town of Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. In 1746 to 1748, he was one of the founders of the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), of which he was a member of the first board of trustees, from which he resigned in 1767. He was also a subscriber to the Philadelphia Academy (now the University of Pennsylvania) and a founder of the Pennsylvania Hospital and the American Philosophical Society.
It seems Col Joseph Shippen did not have a military role in the Revolutionary War, but there is a reference of 16 May 1778 which appears to relate to him; Ordered That Joseph Shippen jun'r of Kennet Township Esq. be discharged from his Parole & be at liberty to act as he shall judge best.
A later 19C copy of the portrait describes him as Secretary of the Provincial Council. An example of his earlier army duties are seen in a letter of 1758;
Joseph Shippen to Thomas January, 1758.
Sir, It is His Honour Governor Denny's Orders that you immediately send up Two hundred and Sixty-five Musquets with Bayonets & Cartouch Boxes etc., to Lancaster, which are to be delivered to the Care of Edward Shippen Esq. for the Use of Five of the new Levied Provincial Companies. And also to send Four hundred & twenty four Musquets, with Bayonets & Cartouch Boxes, etc., to Carlisle, which are to be delivered to the Care of Francis West Esq., for the Use of Eight other new Levied Provincial Companies.
By order of Governor Denny, JOSEPH SHIPPEN, Jr., Brigade Major. Philadelphia 5th June 1758
Directed To Mr Thomas January Provincial Armourer in Philad.
And another written to his brother-in-law, who had married his sister Sarah Shippen;
Joseph Shippen to Maj. James Burd, 1758.
Fort Augusta 20 January 1758
Dear Brother [in-law], I had the pleasure to write you the 2d Inst to Mr Burd when I inclosed you the Returns etc for the 1 January 1758, since which several small Parties of Delaware Indians have arrived here with Skins to trade at the Store; among the rest came old King Neutimus, Joseph & all their Family: And we have now 43 present including Women & Children. Job Chilloway (Bro'r to Bill Chilloway) came here t'other day from the Munsey Country at the Heads of the Cayuga Branch, above Diahoga; he was born & bred at Egg-Harbour, is a very sensible fellow & speaks the English Language perfectly well. From all the Circumstances of his Conversation & Behaviour he appears to be a strict Friend to the English Interest; his releasing Armstrong's Wife from the Enemy Indians last Summer, & the prudent precautions he used in sending her here, is a Confirmation of my good opinion of him. He assures me that the only Indians on the Susquehanna who are our Enemies are those of the Munsey Nation; & they are determined to continue the War against the English; he says he understood from some of the Indians when he came away, that a small Party of French were expected next month from Niagara to join a Muncy Captain & some of his Warriours; & their Intention is to go towards the Settlements near Delaware, and to take an English Fort, situated at a place called by the Indians the Bending Hill, which we suppose to be Fort Allen. He further informs me that last March he carried a parcel of Skins to the French at Niagara, to purchase Clothing for his Family, which meer Necessity obliged him to do, much contrary to his Inclination, observing that the unhappy Indian War had put an End to English Trade; that while he was at that Fort, there were but five officers & he computed the Number of Soldiers not to exceed 150, who by his description of their appearance & dress, are Regulars; that they mounted in the Fort 45 pieces of Cannon, some of which were the Brass Field Pieces taken from General Braddock, which they intended in the Summer to send to Fort Frontenac; that the Fort was strong & pretty large, having in it a great Stone House 3 Stories high, where the Officers lived. He intends to return to the Munsey Country in a few days in order to bring away his things, & in the Spring is determined to live among his Brethren, the English with whom he has always enjoyed peace & Friendship.
I have the pleasure to inform you that Capt Jameson & Lieut Garraway arrived here yesterday with 12 Battoes containing 6000 lb flour, 2 hogsheads of Whiskey, 3 Barrels of Salt, & 20 Bushels of Indian Corn for the Garrison, besides a Quantity for Mr Carson's Store. In the morning I shall dispatch off Capt, Lieut Davis & Ensign McKee with a Party of 50 Men in the Battoes to make another trip if possible while tho River is open & favourable. I have restricted the Garrison to an allowance of one pound of flour per man since the 1 January & shall think it Necessary to continue the same till Capt Davis's return with an additional supply. We have now in Store 17390lb. flour & 91481lb. Beef. Inclosed you have a list of Prisoners here for desertion. I hope to have the pleasure of a Letter from you soon with an agreeable account of success in all your Affairs.
I am very sincerely Dr. Sir, Your very Affectionate Brother &c
JOSEPH SHIPPEN Jr
It seems Joseph Shippen was a fine judge of the local 'belles' in Philadelphia as in c1767 he was the author of a verse titled;
‘Lines written in an Assembly Room in Philadelphia,’
In lovely White's most pleasing form,
What various graces meet!
How blest with every striking charm!
How languishingly sweet!
Withe just such elegance and grace,
Fair, charming Swift appears;
Thus Willing, whilst she awes, can please;
Thus Polly Franks endears.
A female softness, manly sense,
And conduct free from art,
With every pleasing excellence,
In Inglis charm the heart.
But see! another fair advance,
With love commanding all;
See! happy in the sprightly dance,
Sweet, smiling, fair M’Call.’
Each blessing which indulgent Heaven
On mortals can bestow,
To Thee, enchanting maid, is given
Its masterpiece below.
In Sally Coxe's form and face,
True Index of her mind,
The most exact of human race
Not one defect can find.
Thy beauty every breast alarms,
And many a swain can prove
That he who views your conquering charms
Must soon submit to love.
With either Chew such beauties dwell,
Such charms by each are shared.
No critic's judging eye can tell
Which merits most regard.
'Tis far beyond the painter's skill,
To set their charms to view;
As far beyond the poet's quill
To "give the praise that's due."
The identification of the belles referred to, is by Anne Hollingsworth Wharton in one of her early histories, Through Colonial Doorways. He was quite a gallant and as his second wife died in 1801, and his gravestone in St. James records that he was not buried until 1810, it is a little puzzle why he did not wed a third time. He named one home Plumley in honor of his mother, but it is not clear if that was the one where he was living in 1810. On his death, an advertisement of his property, in the Lancaster "Journal" April 28, 1810, described it as;
"that large two-story brick house and lot of ground on the north side of Orange street, in the borough of Lancaster, late the property of Joseph Shippen, Esq., deceased. The lot is 51 feet 7 inches and a half front on Orange street and 245 feet deep, and has the privilege of an 8 feet alley on the west. The house contains four rooms besides a kitchen on the first floor and five on the second story. Also a handsome building lot adjoining the above on the east, measuring 34 feet in front on Orange street, and 245 on Lime street. Also another lot west of said house measuring 39 feet 2 inches front and 245 feet deep. This lot has the privilege of an 8 feet alley which is to be in common between this and the house lot."
At Summer Wood there is a thesis dated May 2011 by Summer Wood which discusses the Shippen family in depth. So, all in all, a fascinating investigation into his life and another portrait of an unknown sitter rescued from obscurity! 1461