Mundy, Ethel Frances - portrait of Dorothy Kane

This wax miniature portrait by Ethel Frances Mundy is the largest one I have seen.

It is 200mm (8ins) in diameter. Although the miniature needs a little restoration and the original frame is missing, it is a rare artwork from the early 20C.

Part of the damage can be seen in her hairpiece, which has been flattened by the close proximity and rigidity of a replacement flat glass. That has now been replaced by a perspex cover. The portrait is a little out of focus here, but for a wax portrait to be in such good condition after 100 years and still retain its colors is welcome.

The portrait is inscribed "Dorothy Kane - Anno Domini MCMXIII" (1913) and signed "Ethel Mundy".

It is surprising that so few Art Museums in USA hold portraits by Ethel Mundy. It may be as the wealthy families still possess her miniatures. Mundy was commissioned by many famous families to make portraits in wax. This one is connected to the Astor family and a second one acquired at the same time is connected to the Wanamaker family.

The sitter is Helen Dorothea Kane (2 Aug 1886-1938) who was born in Bar Harbor, Maine and married Seymour Johnson on 17 Feb 1916.

The Astor connection was highlighted in this engagement announcement of 28 November 1915. As an example of the family wealth, in the 1910 census Dorothy and her family lived with seven servants.

When she applied for her passport in 1922, she advised it was to enable her to visit; British Isles, France, Germany, Italy, Holland, Switzerland, Belgium, Austria, Gibralter, Algeria, Tangier, Egypt, Constantinople, Thesius, Suez, Syria, and Czechoslovakia. Also Argentina, Costa Rica, Chile, Honduras, Brazil, and Colombia. Despite the family wealth, her passport photo was not flattering!

Dorothy was the younger daughter of Walter Langdon Kane (1843-1896) and Mary Rotch Hunter who was the great-great-granddaughter of Richard Stockton, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

As a small indication of the vast family wealth, Dorothy inherited $29,366 on the death of her uncle John Innes Kane in 1913, which may have prompted her to have this wax miniature sculpted.

She is mentioned quite often in the society pages of the times, including as a tennis partner to her future husband.

Dorothy and her elder sister, Caroline Hunter Kane (1880-?) were, via their father, descended from John Jacob Astor (1763-1848) He was Dorothy's great-great-grandfather, with her name Dorothea being in memory of her great-grandmother Dorothea Astor (1795-1874) who married Walter Langdon in 1812.

The dress worn by Dorothy can be compared with these two fashionable outfits depicted in the New York Times of October 13, 1914.

Although the image here is not very clear, the wax miniature featured in this magazine article about Ethel Frances Mundy. The article contains a misprint as the sitter is described as "Dorothy Kean" instead of Dorothy Kane.

Other portraits by Ethel Frances Mundy (who is depicted here) which are in this collection, together with more about her career and work, can be seen at View and at View 1457

November 2012 - A kind visitor has sent me another clipping about Ethel Frances Mundy. It is from the Sunday Post of December 4, 1949, and is a little damaged but still very interesting in adding to our knowledge about Ethel and so I have added it here.

The visitor advised as follows;
I saw your blogs about Ethel Frances Mundy, and thought you might like to see another example of her work, done in the late 1940's (I presume). It was part of a show in a Boston gallery in the fall of 1949.  I happen to know about it because of my interest in the woman portrayed, although my interest dates to a period 45-50 years earlier, when Amy designed book covers for (mostly) Boston publishers.  Her work, again if you are interested, can be seen at  

No comments: