Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Moments of glory and fame for Betsy Bonaparte, & her portrait by Stuart with a ‘scumbled’ background

As mentioned in the last post, Josephine was the light and love of Napoleon Bonaparte early on in his career. Many are familiar with the spectacular rise (and fall) of the skinny and unprepossessing young Corsican, who by taking advantage of sheer opportunity and good luck, in addition to using his swaggering bravura and boundless wit, became an Emperor and Josephine, his Empress.

Less well known is that the youngest brother of Napoleon, Jerome, a young officer of 25 in the French navy, was sent to Virginia to escape capture by the British in mid summer 1803. (Naploeon was at the height of his power, conquering nation after nation, but the British had rule of the seas). Visiting the city of Baltimore, Jerome fell head over heels in love with Miss Elizabeth (Betsy) Patterson, daughter of a vastly wealthy shipping merchant. The couple raised a stir of controversy when they were married less than six months later. What also arched eyebrows was Betsy’s penchant for dressing in the latest er/exotic Parisian fashions, as set by the artful Madame Bonaparte. Sheer, see-through materials, fabulously and revealingly low-cut in the “empire style”, caused a colossal scandal.
Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, by Gilbert Stuart, 1804, Private collection
As could be expected, Napleon had every intention that all siblings of his would make proper royal marriages, and the marriage of Jerome with an American girl was completely rejected. Unrelenting, Bonaparte did not even allow Jerome’s pregnant wife to disembark when the couple sailed to France in March of 1805.

Whether his love for Betsy actually dwindled or whether temptations of unimaginable glory dangled before his eyes by his older brother held sway, Betsy was obliged to sail on to London without setting foot in Paris. Their son Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte was born there. The marriage was annulled by a French court in 1806.

From Lawrence Park:
Elizabeth Patterson, born in Baltimore, was the daughter of William Patterson and his wife Dorothy Spear. At a ball given at the home of Samuel Chase in the autumn of 1803 Jerome Bonaparte met and fell in love with her, but her father, foreseeing that the marriage would meet with the disapproval of Napoleon Bonaparte, at that time First Consul, sent his daughter to Virginia. Correspondence was carried on between the pair, however, and finally, on December 24, 1803, all the legal formalities carefully complied with, Jerome and Elizabeth were married in state by Archbishop Carroll at Baltimore; but Napoleon remained obdurate and Jerome Bonaparte was sent for. The youthful pair sailed in March 1805, only to find that Elizabeth was not allowed to land. She finally sought refuge in England, where her son, Jerome Napoleon Bonaparte, was born July 7, 1805. Jerome Bonaparte, the husband, was finally prevailed upon to divorce his wife. Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte tried every means to maintain the legality of her marriage, and when Napoleon III came to the throne a formal trial was granted her, and the councils decreed that her son was entitled to the name of Bonaparte, but could not be considered a member of the Imperial family. Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte was a woman of great beauty and force of character, retaining to the last her brilliant conversational powers.

Washington 1804. Canvas, 28 x 24 inches. In this very beautiful picture, Stuart painted the head and shoulders of Madame Jerome Bonaparte in three different positions. In the center she is shown full-face, with her soft hazel eyes directed to the spectator. Her auburn hair is dressed in a simple manner with curls on her forehead and in front of her ears. Over her right shoulder a seond head is seen peeping, bent slightly towards the left, with eyes turned to the spectator. At the right of the canvas a third head is seen in profile, the left side of the face with its charming contour turned to the spectator. The flesh tints of this painting are exquisite and the colors of the scumbled background range from a rich dark brown at the outer edge to a lighter shade towards the center where tints of lavender may be seen as it turns into a soft gray.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

a few miniatures of interest from Europe

August von Goethe by Karl Josef Raabe

August did not come close to the exhalted heights of cultural fame achieved by his father Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. He is sadly more known as the untalented child of a genius. Although having a relatively good marriage and three children, August turned to alcohol, which may have played a role in his early death on a trip to Rome, age 40, in 1830. Karl Josef Raabe (1780-1849) was a German painter, engineer, and architect. In 1811 he went to the court of Weimar where he painted miniatures, including Goethe and his son August.

Napoleon's son the Duke de Reichstadt, From the Miniaturenkabinett in the Hofburg, Austria

Napoleon's wife Empress Josephine miniature by Daniel Saint

The style of female dress “empire waist” was popularized by Josephine, spreading across the Atlantic to become the preferred fashion in the new Republic as well (as seen on Ann Penington by Gibby, who is holding a miniature silhouette, and on the "lady holding her most favorite jewel" in the entry before this one). The widow Rose de Beauharnais snared Napoleon Bonaparte’s immediate interest the moment she stood before him to plead that her young son might keep his father’s sword. She was unable to have children, and after much emotional turmoil, Napoleon felt obliged to divorce his beloved Empress Josephine. He quickly married a Habsburg princess who had their son, the Duc de Reichstadt. The young man was sent to live in Austria after Napoleon was forced abdicate and was exiled. Suffering from TB, the only child of N died in 1832 at the age of 21.

As mentioned before, in the time of no phone or twitter, small messages were sent back and forth, sometimes several times a day. A message from Napoleon to Josephine:
“You will be leaving the city at noon. But I shall see you in three hours. Until then, mio dolce amor, I send you a thousand kisses—but send me none in return, for they set my blood on fire.”


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Lady, wearing her most precious jewel!

artist unknown. (Courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art)

No stories today, just something I thought was..adorable....

Saturday, April 18, 2009

stories of Stuart, Goodridge and Webster cont.

“…and love is heaven, and heaven is love”

As mentioned previously, Sarah Goodridge painted a miniature of Stuart; in fact not just one, but three. Clearly he admired her excellent ability. It has been described that she studied under his tutelage, however; “Stuart never claimed any artist as his student, although nearly every American artist of the next generation credited him or his works in the development of their own.” (Barratt and Miles p 291). Sarah opened her studio in Boston in 1820 and adapted Stuart’s oil-paintinging techniques to watercolor, the result of which was a range of stunningly saturated and controlled works. Ibid.

Sarah Goodridge. Self-Portrait, ca. 1845. Courtesy of the R.W. Norton Art Gallery, Shreveport, La.

As also mentioned in the previous post Sarah had a ‘close friendship’, I think it can correctly be called ‘an affair’, with statesman Daniel Webster. I found this interesting tidbit which I think pertains to the story here, in Life and Letters of Dolly Madison by A. C. Clark (W F Roberts Co, Washington DC 1914). In a letter to Dolly by Mrs. Robert Tyler, the wedding of ‘Elizabeth’, 19 yrs married in Feb 1842, is described. Mr Webster was in attendance.
From the letter:

“Lizzie looked surpassingly lovely in her wedding dress and long blonde-lace veil; her face literally covered with blushes and dimples. She behaved remarkably well, too; any quantity of compliments were paid to her. I heard one of her bridesmaids express to Mr. Webster her surprise at Lizzie consenting to give up her belleship, with all the delights of her position, and retire to a quiet Virginia home. ‘Ah,’ said he,

*Love rules the court, the camp, the grove,
And love is heaven, and heaven is love.' ”

Grace Fletcher, by Chester Harding (1792-1866)
First wife of Daniel Webster, who bore him five children.
(Portrait painter Chester Harding also spent time with Stuart in the mid 1820s…. becoming such a skilled imitator that he picked up clientel of Stuart’s after his death.

Grace Fletcher Webster died at age 47. Two years later Webster, absolutely determined to find a suitable marriageable candidate and after a whirlwind one month courtship, married Caroline Le Roy from a wealthy New York family. It seems to have been a marriage of convenience; she had money and connections, he could offer her respite from spinsterhood (Caroline was 32 and unmarried, Webster was 47) and he received a pile of money as a dowry. There was some talk of divorce, especially when Sarah came to visit him in DC and Caroline left town to visit friends and family in New York. But the marriage survived, and Caroline outlived Daniel by 30 years.

Sarah and Daniel ~ it seems their friendly connection survived the new marriage. Note that Sarah’s self portrait does not show a willful, vain, demanding personality.

~~Sarah (detail) Self portrait ca 1825, watercolor on ivory 3 1/8 x 2 5/8 in.
~portrait of Daniel Webster by Gilbert Stuart, unfinished 1817

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sarah Goodridge paints a miniature of Gilbert Stuart; her miniature given as a gift to Daniel Webster Stuns, Surprises, and fires up the Senses!

Miniature painting (most) commonly took the form of portraits done in watercolor on ivory in America during the early nineteenth century. This art form became very popular as the image of a loved one, encased in a metal and glass oval, was meant to be hung in a small space, or worn as jewelry or hidden in a pocket. The miniatures often held a lock of hair, were often mourning portraits, or as pictured below;
tokens of …..sensational intimacy…..

The minature of Gilbert Stuart below (1 7/8 x 1 5/8 in.) was done by Sarah Goodridge (1788-1853). He believed no one else could capture the essence of his personality. He valued this work and presented it to his mother in 1827, adorned with a bracelet woven from his own and his wife’s hair. Middle image; Sarah Appleton with her cat, Sanko by Goodridge. Third image, self portrait Sarah Goodridge.

Sarah Goodridge painted two or three miniatures a week, enough to support her poor sick mother, her orphan niece, and other family members. Her career lasted for thirty years until her failing eyesight forced her to stop. She never married. She developed a friendship with the handsome young Boston lawyer, statesman and famous orator Daniel Webster. The first time she painted Webster's portrait, he was married with three children; she painted this intimate self portrait pictured just below, in 1828, the year of his first term as US senator. He sat for eleven more portraits over the next 25 years. The ‘friendship’ is documented in forty-four letters that Webster wrote to Goodridge between 1827 and 1851. While she carefully preserved letters from him, he seems to have carefully destroyed letters from her. When he moved to Washington to serve in government she visited him there twice. After Webster's wife nee Grace Fletcher died in 1827, Goodridge secretly painted this miniature for him entitled

"Beauty Revealed"

Sarah Goodridge (American, 1788–1835) Beauty Revealed, 1828 Watercolor on ivory; 2 5/8 x 3 1/8 in. (6.7 x 8 cm)The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Gloria Manney, 2006

While it is not certain what went on between these two friends, the stunning nuances of light and shadow and glowing tones of the watercolor on ivory
... speak more than words...

Webster was politically ambitious and needed money, and it seems Goodridge samt intimate portrait did not sway Webster’s emotions towards marriage, at least to her. He met and promptly married another woman, whose father was a wealthy and prominent merchant of New York.
Daniel Webster by Gilbert Stuart 1825
From Lawrence Park Vol II
Daniel Webster (1782-1852)
Born in Salisbury (now Franklin), New Hampshire. Son of Ebenezer Webster and his second wife Abigail Eastman. Graduated from Dartmouth College in 1801. Took up the study of law first in Salisbury and later in Boston, where he was admitted to the bar in 1805, and began practicing at Boscawen; in 1807 he removed to Portsmouth, where he soon acquired distinction. In 1816 he returned to Boston. He soon became one of the foremost advocates of the country. In 1820 he delivered the oration at Plymouth in commemoration of the landing of the Pilgrims; this was followed in 1825 by an oration on the occasion of the laying of the cornerstone of the Bunker Hill Monument and by a eulogy on Adams and Jefferson in 1826—three addresses which established his fame as one of the great orators of the time. Upon the organization of the Whig Party, he became one of its leaders, and in 1836 received the electoral vote of Massachusetts for President. He was Secretary of State under Harrison and Tyler. Until his death he was active in diplomatic and governmental matters. Daniel Webster was married twice: first in 1808, to Grace Fletcher (1781-1828), by whom he had five children; and second, in 1829, to Caroline LeRoy (1797-1882), daughter of Jacob LeRoy of New Rochelle, New York. His only surviving son, Fletcher Webster, fell in the second battle of Bull Run, 1862.

Description of the portrait;
Boston, November, 1825. Canvas 36 x 28 inches. He is shown seated, nearly full-face, but turned slightly to his right, his right arm (hand not shown) resting on a table covered with a green cloth, upon which are two bound volumes lying flat one above the other. His left arm is resting upon the back of the chair. He wears a black coat, high white collar turned over at the edge, and a white frilled shirt. His dark brown eyes gaze with a steady, rather piercing, expression directly at the spectator, while about his mouth lurks the suggestion of a smile. The background is a very deep red or maroon. His hair, worn short, is dark brown, and his complexion ruddy. The books are bound in brown leather: one one is the word “Oceana,” and on the other “Con. U.S.” The portrait was painted for his and Stuart’s friend, Isaac P. Davis (1771-1855) of Boston, and hung for years in his parlor. “One day while visiting Mr. Davis, Webster stood for some time before the picture, and, making a low bow to it, said: ‘I am willing that shall go down to posterity.’” (A letter from Mrs. Isaac P. Davis to Jane Stuart, written from 18 Chauncy Street, Boston, but undated.) It was painted just after Webster had returned to Boston from Washington “looking pale and thin and far from well, yet the picture has the depth of expression for which he was so remarkable.”


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Philadelphia & early colonial portraiture/Portrait Miniatures & a delightful poem from 1758 in praise of a portrait artist

Next week the Philadelphia Antiques Show begins which features 50 of the leading antiques dealers and galleries. These exhibitors will show and sell fine examples of period furniture, folk and fine art, ceramics, porcelain, silver, jewelry and textiles. Of special interest is the featured loan exhibit this year entitled Patriots and Presidents: Philadelphia Portrait Miniatures, 1760-1860, which will chronicle more than a century of portrait miniatures, including those of Benjamin Franklin, one of Philadelphia's most famous citizen, as well as former presidents and patriots. “A collection of small, portable portraits depicting early Philadelphia's most prominent figures celebrates Philadelphia's history as the center of American government and commerce in the 18th and 19th centuries.”
(The pictured miniature is engraved on the reverse; "Garrit Van Horne - Married to - Ann Margaret Clarkson - 16 Novr 1784". Attributed to John Ramage (1748-1802), recently sold at auction.)
Thus I thought it appropriate to momentarily veer away from the fascinating story of Major Samuel Meeker, the Battle of Minisink, and Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea), to begin to explore the art of portrait miniatures, and finally answer the question of whether Gilbert Stuart is also known for this style of Portraiture. But first let us begin with Early Philadelphia and colonial portraiture. Before the days of cameras, colonial gentry and members of the mercantile class documented their families and property by sitting for portraits. These portraits were often painted by itinerant artists, such as John Wollaston, who traveled throughout the colonies in search of commissions. Miniatures in gilded lockets were often the only visual remembrance of loved ones who might be separated by distance or death.
The following information I retrieved from Heirlooms in Miniatures by Anne Hollingsworth Wharton, Philadelphia, 1902. I include the most charming poem in praise of Wollaston taken from her book, describing the creation of a portrait.

“To John Woolaston (Wollaston), who painted in Philadelphia as early as 1758 and in Virginia a little later, we are indebted for a number of Colonial portraits. Among these is the only portrait extant of Martha Washington in her early matronhood….

(Martha Washington was painted by John Wollaston
in 1757 when she was 26 and reflects the ideal 18th
century woman, round face and sloping shoulders,
plump and graceful with waist confined by a lifetime in ‘stays’.)

…An interesting souvenir of Wollaston’s stay in Philadelphia is to be found in The American Magazine for September, 1758, in the form of some verses written by Francis Hopkinson, in which his youthful enthusiasm for the artist and his work found expression in the following lines:

Ofttimes with wonder and delight I stand,
To view the amazing conduct of your hand.
At first unlabour’d sketches lightly trace
The glimmering outlines of a human face;
Then by degrees the liquid life o’erflows
Each rising feature—the rich canvas glows
With heightened charms—the forehead rises fair,
And glossy ringlets twine the nut-brown hair;
The sparkling eyes give meaning to the whole
And seem to speak the dictates of a soul,
The lucid lips in rosy sweetness drest,
The well-turned neck and the luxuriant breast,
The silk that richly flows with graceful air—
All tell the hand of Wollaston was there."

The author does not mention any particular miniatures by John Wollaston. William Dunlap in his History of the Rise and Progress of the Arts of Design in the United States (see 'sources often used') provides only 2 sentences on Wollaston; “A gentleman of this name painted portraits in Philadelphia in 1758, and in Maryland as early as 1759-60. I know nothing more of him, but that Francis Hopkinson published verses in his praise in the American Magazine for September, 1758.” Dunlap did not deign to publish the poem. Typical man!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Joseph Brant and events leading up to the Battle of Minisink, a Revolutionary War Engagement in the Upper Delaware Valley 1779

The following events took place primarily in the Sussex area of New Jersey and led up to the Battle of Minisink, in which Major Samuel Meeker (see posts previous to this) played a significant role in leading the American milita in the tragic chase after the Mohawk chief and his followers.

“In the autumn of 1778, Brant, the famous Mohawk chief, made a descent from the borders of Canada into the Minisink valley, at the head of about a hundred Indians and Tories. They confined their atrocities chiefly to the settlements north of the Jersey boundary. ….In July, 1779, he reappeared with a larger force, and effected the destruction of the Neversink settlement, at what is now Port Jervis, in Orange Co. N.Y. The scene of massacre enacted here beggars description. One writer says, “While the inhabitants were attending the funeral of a deceased neighbor at the church, and when the procession was leaving for the burying-ground, the Indians came down upon their settlement, and before they had time to reach their homes the flames of the church gave signs of their narrow escape, and the smoke of their mills, barns, and houses forshadowed the doom of Neversink. Some of the whites—the number is unknown—were massacred in the most merciless manner; others—and among them mothers with their children in their arms or by their sides—fled to thickets, swamps, and standing grass for concealment and safety….

…. Brant shows a bit of Compassion

On their approach to the heart of the village the Indians found the rising hope of the colony in the school-house, under the tuition of Jeremiah Van Auken. The teacher soon fell a victim to their fury, and was dragged, a corpse, from the school-house, and also some of his pupils. Meanwhile, the rest of the boys fled to the woods for safety, while their sisters stood trembling and weeping by the lifeless remains of their teacher. At this instant a savage whoop was heard that reverberated through the forest and seemed like the signal to renewed deeds of cruelty. But even in the bosom of an Indian there still glowed one spark of sympathy that kindled at the scene. A brawny form sprang from the woods, where he had witnessed the tragical event, and with utmost speed approached the little group, with his horn by his side and his brush in his hand, and, dashing his paint-brush across their aprons, cried, ‘Little girls, hold up that mark when you see an Indian, and you are safe,’ and uttering a terrible yell, he plunged into the forest and disappeared. It was Brant. The life-mark was upon the little girls. The ruthless savage, when he saw it, smiled and passed by. The will of the chief was law.” History of Sussex and Warren, compiled by James P. Snell, Everts and Peck Philadelphia 1881. p 55

Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea) by Gilbert Stuart 1786 Collection of the Duke of Northumberland

Brant was painted by Gilbert Stuart 1786 in London. Here Brant was celebrated as King of the Mohawks and treated with honors and respect by English high society, including aristocrats and royalty.

“In his role as ambassador for his nation at court, Brant presented a seductive public image that merged diplomat and warrior, gentleman and brute… He played his role through costume, as he donned English suits for some occasions, full Iroquois chieftain garb for others, and even a combination when it suited." Barratt and Miles p 70-71

Did Joseph Brant and Samuel Meeker, merchant, meet in later years in Philadelphia?

Entirely possible!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Major Samuel Meeker, Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea)

family tree book "Pedigree of Major Samuel Meeker"click for bigger view

As I have previously mentioned, the family tree book which traversed the generations alongside the portrait, erroneously bestowed the name of Major Samuel Meeker to the sitter in the portrait. This family tree book I now believe was compiled by Emma Martin, sister of Carrie Martin my gt grandmother. (In the image on the lefthand side, one can see that the tree begins with the three Martin sisters of Rahway New Jersey, Jane, Emma and my gt grandmother Carrie.)

If the book had been compiled even earlier, for example by Mary Brookfield (see image upper/center), chances for misnaming the sitter might have been reduced. However Mary was young when her mother Phebe passsed away and I believe it was at this time point that information on the portrait became vague; but the most important fact was preserved, the name “Samuel Meeker.”

Emma (mom's "gt auntie"), bless her, tried to compile the tree back to Samuel as best she could, but determined that Samuel Meeker was the father of Phebe. [As I know now, Samuel and Phebe were twins.] Emma thus placed the time of the portrait a generation back in time. Which is why she/other family members most likely thought it was by Peale (a famous portrait painter in Philadelphia but a bit earlier than Stuart.) Possibly Emma had come across the more renowned MAJOR Samuel Meeker in the history books of the region, and plausibly thought that such an ILLUSTRIOUS war hero would be interested in having his portrait done to preserve his likeness for posterity.

And in fact the Major DID have a daughter Phebe, solidifying (Emma's) identification of this person as being the sitter in the Portrait.

Major Samuel Meeker achieved his fame by skirmishing with the famous half Indian JOSEPH BRANT (a.k.a. Thayendanegea), Mohawk leader and British military officer during the American Revolution.

Stay tuned!

Site Meter