Wood, Joseph - portrait of a lady

This miniature portrait is unsigned. In a close up view the detail is outstanding. Initially, it was thought it might be by Edward Greene Malbone (1777-1807).

However, a kind visitor says it is more likely to be by Joseph Wood (1778-15 Jun 1830). Wood was born in Clarkston, NY and established himself as a miniature painter in NYC in 1800. Initially he also worked as a goldsmith and silversmith, although seemingly without completing a full apprenticeship.

It seems likely Wood made his own miniature cases during the early part of his career. Although it has a blue glass rear, this case gives the impression of being made by an amateur, who has copied the English style of case, where the case is held together with tiny pins at the sides. Thus it was possibly made by Wood himself, perhaps around 1810.

Wood was a partner with John Wesley Jarvis from 1803, but the partnership broke up in 1809 and in 1811, Wood took Nathaniel Rogers as an apprentice. Wood was regarded as notoriously dissolute and died in poverty in Washington in 1830. There is a very comprehensive account of the life of Joseph Wood at - View as HTML

Malbone had met Wood in 1802 or 1803 and gave Wood some guidance and instruction. Subsequently they became friends and Malbone had a visible influence on Wood's work.

As can seen from the comments below, one needs to be careful in differentiating between their work.

Johnson comments on Wood's style; "The technique is similar to Malbone's, although Wood's brushwork is slightly grainier and the paint is applied in something closer to a wash technique. In Wood's mature work the backgrounds, like Malbone's, as light and shaded by dark patches or painted to resemble sky. However, Wood's portraits are more sharply defined than Malbone's, showing stronger contrasts and deeper shadows, with dark outlines around the eyes. Gum arabic is used liberally, and at times the works are even varnished."

"The hair is brilliantly and airily rendered, often in the coup de vent style popular at the time. Heads are usually smaller than those by Malbone, and the subject is often placed off centre or low on the ivory. Like Malbone's, Wood's subjects are self-assured; their presentations, however, are more varied and offer fully characterisations."

"Later works by Wood, although skilful, are not as forceful as those of his best period; the drawing is more hesitant, the brushwork is broader, and the backgrounds are somewhat darker."

Based upon this analysis and the hairstyle and clothing of the sitter, it would seem this is one of the earlier portraits painted by Wood. The size is smaller than his later miniatures (56mm x 47mm) and the pose is similar to a number of the miniatures painted by Malbone. These can be seen in the comprehensive biography of Malbone written by Ruel Tolman.

The sitter is unknown. 954

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