Unknown - portrait of "TH"

This miniature portrait has been included under American portraits, although that is not certain.

The miniature is unsigned and the sitter is unknown, although on the reverse are filigree initials "TH", so his name was likely Thomas H..... However, the initials are also possibly "JH" or "IH". Any opinions as to who he might be, from comparison with other known portraits would be welcome.

The miniature shows how frustrating it is when the sitter has lost their identity.

The reasons for leaning towards an American artist is that it was purchased in USA, the casework is somewhat similar to casework produced in America by jewelers who had trained in Ireland. In addition, it can be seen that his waistcoat proudly displays red, white, and blue stripes. This is taken to be an expression of young American pride after the War of Independence.

The detail of his clothing is very fine, even with a shadow on the right shoulder from the white frill of his neck-wear. The miniature is believed to date from c1790-1795 based upon the hairstyle.

The work appears to be by an artist who lacked formal training. The sitter seems to have wiry hair, and is somewhat similar in style to the work of William Verstille (1757-1803), Ebenezer Mack (a1785-1808), and Nathaniel Hancock (a1785-1809), but is not close enough to attribute it to one of those artists. The dark background was often used by French artists, so it is possibly painted by one of the number of French trained artists who fled to America after the French Revolution.

The casework has fine bright-cut engraving and is assembled in a manner closer to American cases, being front opening, rather than rear opening, as was more common in Britain. There is an unusual thin gold fillet or mount as the border, suggesting the jeweler was not accustomed to making cases or had an outer gold case and red leather case available, which was slightly too large for the ivory to be framed, hence the fillet was necessary.

The combination of an expensive gold case and an artist not professionally trained, adds to the belief it is more likely an American artist. If it had been painted in Ireland or England, one would have expected a top artist to be commissioned for a miniature to be housed in such and expensive case, and for the case to be a more perfect fit. 1446

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