May 2014 - An Important Addition by John Smart

This month sees the addition to the collection of a miniature portrait by the famous miniature painter John Smart (1742/3-1811). The sitter is identified on the rear as General Bruce and on the left front is signed "JS 1778" (apologies for the reflection). As it is on paper and hence fragile, I was reluctant to remove it from the frame to photograph, after more than 200 years unopened.

The purchase of this miniature does illustrate how it is possible to find miniatures by important artists at bargain prices, even if not every day. It is just necessary to gradually keep on accumulating knowledge and keeping one's eyes open for any opportunities that may arise. 

The miniature was one of 30 miniatures offered at an auction 400 miles away, so one for which it was necessary to make absentee bids. The other miniatures were of good average quality, but this one was not really rated by the auctioneer, being described only as; English School of General Bruce initialled & dated 'TS/1778'(?), painted on paper, ebonised fruitwood frame $200-400.

However, from the catalogue photo it appeared recognisable as a John Smart. On 10 June 2010 Christie's in London auctioned ten similar John Smart miniatures on paper which aggregated nearly £120,000, an average hammer price of £12,000 each. Hence it would not have been surprising if this one had sold for $10,000 or more, far more than could have been afforded for this collection. With only a small photo in the auction catalogue, and being unable to actually view the miniature, it was difficult to be sure that it was a Smart, hence a modest limit bid of $1200 was made, much more in hope than expectation.  That faint hope was realised far below expectation, with the successful hammer price being $350.

Research into the sitter has revealed him as General Thomas Bruce (1738 – 12 December 1797), a British soldier and politician, and the third son of William Bruce, 8th Earl of Kincardine. He was the Member of Parliament for Marlborough, 22 June 1790 – 30 May 1796, and Great Bedwyn, 28 May 1796 – 12 December 1797.He died at Exeter and is buried in the Lady Chapel at Exeter Cathedral, where he is described as Lieut General Thomas Bruce Colonel of the 16th regiment of foot and uncle of the Earl of Elgin, 1797. The army preferments of June 1786 record his promotion:"The Hon Major General Thomas Bruce to be resident major general on the staff of Ireland vice Major General St Leger dec." 1460


February 2014 - Some American Additions

Time has been found to catch up on and add to the collection, several American miniature portraits acquired at various times in the past year or so.

This first miniature portrait was painted by a British artist in England, but has been included in an American Gallery as it is of a famous 19C American maths prodigy and thus a very lucky purchase. The vendor did not realise that and so it was merely advertised as;
 Albin Roberts BURT (1783 – 1842) “Zerah Cobourn”. A portrait of a youthful Oxford academic bedecked in his gown, possibly an American as no British census records exist for the name Zerah Cobourn.

Some of the writing on the rear is hard to read, but Zerah Cobourn (for Colburn) can be read at the top. He was born on 1 September 1804 and died on 2 March 1839, being a child prodigy of the 19th century who gained fame as a mental calculator. There is more about him at Zerah Colburn (math prodigy) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia He also wrote a book about his life which is available at A memoir of Zerah Colburn: written by himself.

The young man who is the sitter is unknown in this miniature portrait of c1815-1825, but it is signed "Stump pinxt".

Samuel John Stump (1778-1863) was a very competent artist who is believed to have been born in USA, although it is not known where. As such he has been included with other American miniatures.

He worked in London, Brighton, Zurich, and Geneva. Unfortunately the miniature is warped and hence the scanned image does not adequately reflect his skill. 1478 

 This finely painted miniature portrait is signed with an incised signature by George Freeman (1787-1868), an American miniature painter who worked in both the United States and in England.

The sitter is unknown, but the detail of the sitter's clothing, and indeed his facial features are very well painted, better than can be seen in this image. 1482

Included in this collection there is also a miniature portrait by George Freeman of a young lady as below, which was painted on his return to America.

See  Freeman, George - portrait of a lady

This miniature portrait, only 40mm x 32mm in size, was offered on eBay as a miniature portrait of an unknown lady, being advertised as;
 "Antique Early 1800's Bonnet Lady Portrait Miniature on Enamel 14K Gold Case. Shabby Chic Condition Glass Back Case 15.27 grams".

As such there was limited price competition, even though there were a total of 21 bids, and it was fortunately purchased for this collection for less than the value of the gold content, $160. Thus bargains can occasionally be found even on eBay, that is, provided one is careful and does one's research beforehand as far as practical.

It is a copy on enamel of the miniature portrait of Martha Washington on ivory by James Peale (1749-1831), painted in 1796 and now residing at Mount Vernon.

Although this miniature has the sitter's name on the reverse, it has proved difficult to find out anything about him. At top left it is inscribed either "Rev Mr Roush" or "Rev Wm Roush", or less likely "Routh".

Without being exceptional, the miniature is well painted and the pointed shape of the nose is reminiscent of the work of James Peale (1749-1831) of Philadelphia. For example, a portrait said to be of James Ladson painted by him in 1799. Peale did his best work between 1786 and 1805, and in his work after 1805 he is said to have been assisted by his daughter Anna Claypoole Peale (1791-1878).

The pose of this miniature is similar to that of miniatures by both Peale and his daughter, and if a joint work would be less likely to be signed. From the discussion about casework as below, it is believed the miniature probably dates to 1810-1815 and was probably painted in Philadelphia.The name Roush, changed from Rausch, did occur in the Philadelphia area. He is likely therefore to be related to John Roush or Jacob Roush, both of Philadelphia, who were born in the mid 18C and died after 1815.

One way to date the miniature is by studying the casework which helps to confirm it as an American portrait. I have discussed elsewhere the effect of the 1808 Embargo Act on American miniature portraits. As a consequence of the trade war, it was not possible to import cases and glasses from Britain. Hence for a period of several years from 1808-1815 miniature painters had to make cases out of whatever they could find. In this instance there is, unusually, an inner and outer glass, both with metal bezels as shown in the photographs here. It appears the miniature was made to fit the inner bezel, itself made to fit an available glass. There being no indication of any hanger.  As the miniature was then too small for a standard case, the inner half-case and miniature were then placed inside a rectangular ebonised case, which appears to be more likely of French origin, trade with France being easier than with Britain. The miniature is therefore very collectible as being a good example of an Embargo Act "make-do" case. 1485

Parts of this group of miniature portraits were offered on Ebay, with some retained by the vendor and others sold to different buyers. Three were acquired for this collection, but the full group is shown here for the benefit of researchers and in an effort to identify some of the sitters. The research process may also be interesting to visitors.

The three acquired are the one at top left and the central pair at the bottom. The vendor also kindly enclosed several labels which identified some of the sitters. The vendor in Winnebago, Minnesota, United States had acquired the full group as a single unit and described them as; "James J Hill RAILROAD TYCOON, SUPREME COURT JUDGE STRONG Family Relation photos in EXCELLENT CONDITION, 113 yrs OLD", and also:


Although the vendor listed the identities in good faith, analysis of the labels suggests that some items may have been miss-identified, with the relationship with the Hill family unexplored beyond the vendor's comment. The pair acquired for this collection have been removed from their frames and photographed separately. They are both signed by Otto E Eckardt of Dresden, the one of a young man also being signed and dated 1901 on the reverse. Otto Eckardt was one of a family of miniature painters who appear to have been sent photographs from America, from which he painted miniature portraits. As can be seen below he also added colour to the reverse. Although, superficially, they may look like those miniatures painted in America on ivory over a faint photographic base, there is no sign of that technique here and they are believed to be traditional miniature portraits on ivory.  There are a number of similar Eckardt miniature portraits of other sitters in this collection.
In seeking to identify the sitters, the young man is the best place to start. It seems fairly certain he is identified by the label "Arthur Jarvis Slade only brother of George Theron Slade". Although the references at Rootsweb have not been double-checked, that website does record Arthur Jarvis Slade, born 1 October 1872 in New York, and also his brother. A birth date of 1872 would make him 29 in 1901 which seems to fit. Arthur died in Naples Italy on 30 March 1932. He appears to have qualified as an engineer and his parents are recorded on Rootsweb as George P Slade and Cornelia Wheeler Strong born 29 April 1844. I 1900 Arthur married Jessica Hildreth Halsey who was born in 1877, thus it is likely his portrait was painted at the time of his wedding, probably as a pair with a portrait of his first wife which then retained by her on their divorce. The woman here is too young to be her and thus is more likely his mother, Cornelia Wheeler Strong Slade. There is more about the family at

An extensive obituary of Arthur has been located which shows he was divorced in 1920 and then, in Paris, was remarried in 1929 to Yvonne Truchot Tegou, but appears to have had no children.

The pair at the top of the group photo are clearly by the same artist and painted at the same time. The miniatures were retained by the vendor but by deduction, are believed to be the father of Arthur, George P Slade and the mother of Cornelia Wheeler Strong Slade, a Cornelia Wheeler Barnes born 15 February 1816. Their birth dates would appear to match the ages in the miniatures.

The identification of George Patten Slade is reinforced by a photograph of him in a book Oakdale by Diane Holliday, Chris Kretz published in 2010. Anyone wishing to purchase a copy should refer to Arcadia Publishing At the time, 1902, George P Slade was President of the South Side Sportsmen's Club. See also South Side Sportsmen's Club - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Identification of Judge Strong, State Supreme Court, as referred to in one label is less easy, but it seems likely to be the miniature at top right of the large group photo.  The Emma Barnes Slade/Strong referred to in another label is less obvious. She was the great-grandmother of Arthur and may be the lady at the bottom right, with the man at bottom left being her husband. However, as those two portraits appear to be French from c1815-1825, they may well be ancestors of Arthur Slade's French, second, wife, Yvonne Truchot Tegou, which could also explain the origin of the two miniatures in the middle which appear to be French decorative miniature portraits. The man at top left is identified on the rear as either "Rev Mr Roush" or "Rev Wm Roush". His miniature portrait was acquired for this collection and can be found in the American 3 Gallery. 1486a, 1486b, 1485.


Welcome to a Free Art Exhibition of Portrait Miniatures

[Welcome to new followers who saw this site on Blogs of Note for July 6, 2010. I hope you find the subject fascinating. I am willing to answer questions about miniatures and I get several questions each week. Click on my profile for the address. Questions are often from people who have portraits of ancestors, or found a miniature in a drawer. Check back, as I try to add at least one post a month containing market information or about additions to the collection.]

Thus read on as, in a user friendly format, the website displays a private collection of miniature portraits. A kind visitor has emailed; "It is definitely the best online art website that I have found yet."

But before exploring, please take a few seconds to imagine yourself 200 years ago, with no computers, no television, no films, no photographs, and no color printing in magazines or newspapers. Consider how unique these miniature paintings were, in capturing likenesses we now take for granted, and think how few other delicate objects of that age have lasted so well.

The Exhibition should appeal to art lovers, family historians, and fashion historians who can study hairstyles and clothing, changing over the centuries. Increasingly, the website focuses on known sitters and represents a new view of history, by "stepping through the back of a portrait".

If necessary, please wait a minute or so for the Slideshow Previews to appear (hopefully! - some browsers may have problems) and click to start. They show examples of miniatures on the left by American artists, and on the right by British and European artists. More miniatures are included in the various Gallery Links to the right, reached by clicking on the blue hyperlinks.

There are over 800 miniatures in the collection from America, Britain and Europe. All being easy to view and arranged in separate Galleries. In addition, hundreds more fine miniatures in other private collections can be accessed via links on the right. The exhibition format is:

1 Introduction to Miniatures
2 Copy, Fake, and Decorative Miniatures
3 Miniatures and the Photograph
4 Focus of the Collection
5 Additions and Comment since 2009
6 Guest Gallery
7 History of the Collection
8 Highlights
9 American Galleries
10 British Galleries
11 European Galleries
12 Art Collecting Links
13 Bibliography

For more detail click on the blue links above or on the right under Gallery Links. Alternatively, use the Site Search box to search for artists, sitters, or key words. To email me with questions about miniatures, just click on my photo for a link. As a service to collectors, I do not charge for brief inquiries, but am also willing to advise collectors wishing to dispose of collections of miniatures.

The 2008 entries can be seen consecutively in 2008 Additions and Comment or items of interest can be selected below. (Research being like a detective story, the major items really do feel like cases!). Entries for 2009-2011 can also be seen, starting at 2009 Additions and Comment

The following slide-shows depicts some portraits acquired for the collection.

Posts during 2010
December - Auction news - View
November - Nathaniel Rogers at auction - View 
November - Two additions - View 
October - Three additions - View 
September - Two additions - View
August - Rare wax portrait by Ethel Frances Mundy - View 
July - Rare miniature on porcelain and new information - View
July - Expanded research on recent additions - View
June - Items of interest and more on Barratt fakes - View
June - Is the case original? - View
May - Fakes and items of interest - View
April - Recent sales noted - View
March - Horace Walpole on Samuel Cooper - View
March - A new book and some modern fakes - View
March - Current news - View
February - That book again! - View
January - Mainly American miniatures - View

[- Re the Carlisle book!
For more see
The Real Mr Frankenstein

The inspiration for the biography was the purchase of a miniature portrait of Carlisle for this collection, and it is shown here on the cover. The research has been fascinating and incredible, but also sobering, as it including the uncovering of a series of murders of pregnant women by famous men midwives of the 18C. This truly is an example where truth is stranger than fiction.

The book has been published in .pdf format as an eBook and is now available for purchase for £9.99 [GBP9.99] at The Real Mr Frankenstein

The Second Edition runs to 470 pages, with 300 illustrations. Research is ongoing, and this latest edition available for download via, contains substantial updates.]

Posts during 2009
December - Some additions - View
November - A record price and a sad story - View
October - Buyer Beware - how to waste $18,000 - View
October - The Real Mr Frankenstein now published! - View
September - Modern miniatures and research - View
August - Stolen miniatures - View
August - The Real Mr Frankenstein and wearing a miniature - View
August - A new book and a question about condition - View
July - Additions and market comment - View
June - An addition and some queries - View
May - Market snippets and more on fakes - View
April - Magazine articles on American miniatures - View
April - Snippets and painting miniatures - View
March - Snippets and an addition - View
February - The Yves St Laurent sale - View
February - Market place and an addition - View
January - An addition and various comments - View
December - Annual Review for 2008 - View
December - Additions to the collection - View
December - The market- fake and genuine miniatures - View
November - Fake and genuine miniatures in the market place - View
November - Two additions - View
November- "Blog Following" and the market place - View
November - Miniatures of George Washington - fake and genuine. - View
November - Art of Mourning - View
October - The Case of the 4th Earl, the Harem, and the Great Art Fraud - View
October - A Spanish miniature portrait collection - View
October - The Market for Miniatures - View
October - More from the Market - View
September - A likely fake and the real Mr Frankenstein - View
September - The Case of the American Count and the Cookbook - View
September - New exhibition in Germany - View
August - American additions to the collection - View
August - Fakes, condition issues, and the market place - View
August - Preview - Comstock, Conger, Starr, and Stout families - View
August - The impact of the 1807 Embargo Act on miniatures - View
August - The Case of the Cabinet-Maker's Daughter - View
July - Researching sitters and decorative miniatures - View
July - American additions and Mr Darcy - View
July - The Case of Isaac Buckingham and The People vs McCool - View
June - Market place and miscellany - View
June - Additions to the collection and research - View
June - The Case of the Military Matriarch - View
May - Exhibitions, new literature, stolen miniature - View
May - New and recent literature on miniatures - View
May - Twenty years on the trail of William Douglas - View
May - Research and literature - View
May - American additions to the collection - View
May - The Case of the Speed Family and Abraham Lincoln - View
May - New Research and trivia - View
April - New dictionary of French miniature painters - View
April - The American market place - View
April - Une Collection Francaise - View Blog
April - Additions to the collection - View
April - Market place and other things - View
April - Miniature portrait of Benjamin West - View
April - Fakes and decorative miniatures - View
April - The Case of the von Cramon family and the Hitler bomb plot - View
March - Miscellany and more on museums - View
March - Additions to the collection - View
March - Market place - View
March - The exhibition of eBay Boycott Art - View
March - The Case of the British Rodin - View
February - Additions to the collection - View
February - The Case to Open the Museum Doors! - View
February - Stolen miniature portraits - View
February - Harriet Josephine Turner - View
February - Market place - View
January - Blue eyes, record price, - View
January - A forgotten family story - View
January - Additions to the collection - View
January - The Case of Walter Robertson - View

See also the Annual Review for 2007 and some previous cases below from:

An Art Collector's Casebook:

The Case of the Coal Mining Family from Ohio - View
The Case of the Lady Sculptor from Boston - View
The Case of the Mark Twain Portrait - View
The Case of the Link between Pocahontas and George Washington - View
The Case of the Lord Mayor of Melbourne - View
The Case of the Slave Trader's Widow - View
The Case of the Scandalous 19C Divorce - View
The Case of the Painter Princess - View
The Case of the 15 year old Eloping Heiress - View
The Case of the Gift from Napoleon - View
The Case of the Unknown Victoria Cross Winner - View
The Case of the Forgotten Author - View
The Case of the Chemistry Professor and the Spirit Mediums - View
The Case of the Portrait of Aaron Burr - View
The Case of the Governor's Grand March - View

(Please note that Copyright for all portraits and written content on this website and its subsidiary pages remains with the Owner, but images may be copied for private or educational research with an appropriate credit or an Internet link to this website. Clicking on About Me should bring up an email link.)

Introduction to Miniatures

If you have stumbled across this exhibition by accident and your time is limited, it is suggested you look at either the 2008 Additions and Comment under Gallery Links for regular updates, or the American 1 Gallery for the kind of information included about artists and sitters.

Other sections contain information on the history of portrait miniatures and Internet links to related sites. The site is continually being revised as extra information or miniatures come to hand. Such revisions are a great advantage of publishing on the Internet.

If you wish to ask me about miniatures, you can click on my photo for an email link.

Please, please, please!
However, before you set off to explore the site, a heartfelt plea to anyone who owns a miniature and knows the identity of the subject.

Please, please, record the name of the sitter, either written on the reverse or on an attached tag, especially if you are contemplating a sale of the miniature.

Some sellers deliberately conceal or remove the identity of the sitter, probably because they are ashamed of selling an "ancestor".

The miniature here by Annie Dixon, of a girl with ringlets, falls into this category. When purchased, it was found the sitter's name is written on the reverse, but has been crossed out so it is illegible.

It is far better to be as proud of the sitter's identity, as the original owner of the miniature was, so that an ancestor's identity is not lost and can follows them into the future.

I think that to remove the identity of a sitter is akin to removing the sitter's gravestone from their grave. No one would contemplate that. In this collection, research into named sitters has often revealed how interesting their lives were.

Shown here is one large painting (20" x 16") in the collection, which was an irresistible purchase. It is titled "The Miniature" and is signed by A L Grace, a late Victorian artist. It depicts a collector (not me, I have more hair) admiring a portrait and gives an indication of the relative size of a miniature, although most are smaller than this.

Collecting Miniatures
The fascination in collecting miniatures arises from the skill of the artist, with each portrait being a unique and original work of art, together with the opportunity to research individual sitters and the historical events associated with them. As with collecting of any nature, there is also the thrill of the hunt!

Some notes for potential collectors. An author on the subject, Daphne Foskett, observed in her book "Miniatures - Dictionary and Guide" that there are two methods of forming a collection, with the choice between the two determined by how much the collector can afford to spend.

The first method is for collectors of limited means. In Daphne Foskett's opinion this is the most interesting way and involves the collector buying any miniatures that appeal. In this way a collection may be assembled that may not be of equal merit, but can later be weeded out and the collection improved. In the process the collector gradually gains knowledge, becomes more discriminating and thus better able to select good examples. For example the collector will quickly become aware that miniatures can be divided into two types. Collectors generally prefer those which are true portraits, but some people do collect miniatures which were originally mass produced for decorative purposes.

The second method of collecting is for a collector with ample means who can afford to buy important items recommended by specialist dealers. Such a collection is often smaller, but will include examples by the better known artists. An extreme example is the Starr Collection of miniatures by John Smart, which contains a dated example for each year of his activity from 1760 to 1810.

As the cost of a John Smart miniature these days is in the range of US$20,000 to US$40,000, a collector wishing to emulate that collection will need very ample means!

Most miniature portraits are, as the name suggests, portraits of people. However, it is possible to occasionally find the skill of an artist demonstrated in other ways, such as the feather shown here, which is painted by an unknown artist.

Prices for Miniatures
The current world record price for a miniature portrait is over US$1,300,000 which was paid for a miniature of George Washington by John Ramage. At the time it was probably the most expensive painting per square inch in the world.

However, a collector need not be disheartened by that price. Miniatures do represent an opportunity to assemble a collection of original art at modest cost. This collection has been acquired on a limited budget. Thus famous miniature painters such as Hilliard, Cooper, Smart, and Engleheart are absent.

Nevertheless, by putting in much search and research time, together with some calculated risk taking and occasional lucky finds, it has been possible to assemble a range of good artists. Some of these, such as Francois Soiron, Domenico Bossi, James Peale, and Charles Bourgeois are the equals of top British artists and represented in museum collections around the world.

Potential collectors may also be heartened to know that shown here is the cheapest miniature in this collection which was purchased in 2001 at auction for less than US$5.

Also shown is the signed and dated note found inside it, which gives the name of both the artist and the sitter. (As a word of caution, miniatures should only be opened if they come apart easily. If not, seek the assistance of a jeweller.)

Thus bargains can still be found. Overall the average cost of this collection is under US$500 per miniature. This average cost limit is an ongoing target, so as to have fun collecting, and as a purchasing discipline.

One of the most enjoyable features of collecting is researching sitters. It is often amazing what can be found out about a sitter who may have an unfamiliar name, but may well be related to famous people from history. Rarely, it is even possible to use other sources to identify an unknown sitter. The extra information can add dramatically to the value.

Hopefully this website will encourage new collectors and show that even people of modest means can build an interesting collection and have pleasure in the process.

For more general information about miniatures see Background or to explore the various Galleries, click on these blue hyperlinks.

  • 2008 Additions and Comment
  • 2007 Additions and Comment
  • 2006 Additions and Comment
  • American 1
  • American 2
  • American 3
  • American 20C
  • British 1
  • British 2
  • British 20C
  • European 1
  • European 2
  • Guest Gallery
  • Une Collection Francaise