Wednesday

Malbone, Edward Greene - portrait of a man

Although this miniature portrait is unsigned, it has been attributed to Edward Greene Malbone (1777-1807).

The tentative attribution to Malbone has been supported by a kind visitor to the website.

Although, it does not appear clearly in the photo, the sitter has his hair tied back in a ribbon which is similar to portrait 395 in "Edward Greene Malbone" by Ruel Tolman. The pose is also similar to several other portraits in that book.

Malbone is often regarded as America's finest miniature painter, with his style going through several different phases in his short career. His career had commenced in Boston in 1794, moved two years later to Providence, with a further two years in Philadelphia and New York before visiting England in 1801. Returning from England in late 1801 he worked in various cities until 1806, when illness forced him to cease painting. He died from tuberculosis when returning from a visit to Jamaica in 1807.

Johnson comments on his style; Malbone's earliest miniatures, although somewhat primitive, are remarkably accomplished for a self-taught seventeen-year-old. The faces are finely stippled and crisply outlined,; subjects are placed against the conventional background of a red curtain. By 1801 Malbone had developed a technique of delicate cross-hatching, creating form by means of fine inter-woven lines. His brushstrokes had grown more confident, and he began to allow the luminosity of the ivory support to emerge through this washes of soft color. After his trip to England, Malbone's brushwork became freer and broader, with subtle transitions between the painted areas. Backgrounds grew lighter, often displaying a sky and cloud motif. He employed a larger ivory, often well over three inches high."

Based upon the analysis given by Johnson, it would seem that this miniature dates from around 1795-1800, shortly before Malbone went to England.

It is of the slightly smaller size (58mm x 44mm), the background is darker, but the lighter washes on the face allow the ivory to show through.

Unusually, there is a faint engraved cartouche on the rear of the gold frame, about the same size as the sitter's head. It is too faint to photograph and it is not clear whether it once contained initials, or whether an attempt has been made to erase the cartouche and any initials it once contained.

The sitter is unknown. 730

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