Monday

Mack, Ebenezer - portrait of a man

This miniature portrait of an unknown man is unsigned and the sitter is unknown. Originally it was thought to be by William Verstille, but comparison with examples of the work of Ebenezer Mack suggests it is by Mack and painted c1790. However, this attribution is a little less certain than the adjacent miniature.

The pose is similar, and one feature of Mack's work is a thick dark line between the lips. In this example the thick dark line is not as long as in some other examples, such as the adjacent miniature of a young man in a brown coat, but is the same colour. Other characteristics of Mack's work seem to be a great attention to the detail of the neckwear and clothes of his sitters, and somewhat "spikey" hair.

Scalloped casework like this is seen on miniatures from the North East United States by Mack and William Verstille, but has also been seen on some miniatures from the British West Indies. 294

Christy Archibald of Christine Archibald Portrait Miniatures has been researching Mack and advises further that;
"Ebenezer Mack (active 1785-1808) has been an artist of some mystery. Research has found a headstone for that name in Hillside Cemetery, Antwerp, Jefferson County, New York (outside of Philadelphia). If this is the same Mack, he was born January 26, 1766 to William Wormann Mack and Ruth Gee in Lyme, Connecticut, and died October 11, 1831, in Antwerp, New York. In 1787 he married Polly Huntley Harvey (1765-1838), and had three children: Polly Mack Rider (1790-1833), Charmis Mack (1795-1866), and Charles Chabris Mack (1797-1886.) See: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=26867082. Professionally, Mack was first placed in Boston in 1780, with a brief mention in John Smibert: Colonial America’s First Portrait Painter: “Trumbull rented [Smibert's Boston] studio in 1779 and made use of whatever remained of Smibert’s library…[and]…over the course of the next sixteen years at least six more artists–-Mather Brown (1780), Ebenezer Mack (1780), Joseph Dunkerly [sic] (1780), Samuel King (c 1780-1785), John Mason Furnass (1785) and John Johnston (1795) held sway in the studio.” 1 It is interesting to note that Dunkerley and Mack were recorded as using Smibert’s studio in the same year. It's possible that this led to them becoming acquaintances, or studying together. It's also interesting to note that another miniaturist at the time, William Verstille, was active in Philadelphia and New York in the 1780s, and his work at times bears a resemblance to Mack’s portraits. The Mack miniature of Jasper Ely Cropsey, circa 1794, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, has a similar look to some miniatures by Verstille. Additionally, the gold frame for the Mack miniature by Cropsey looks similar to several frames on Verstille’s miniatures. Verstille was a goldsmith as well as a miniaturist, and may possibly have created some frames for Mack’s miniatures, much as Paul Revere did for Dunkerley’s miniatures, although it should be noted that this style of miniature frame was popular in the East during this time period. Mack advertised as a miniature painter in Philadelphia in 1785 and 1788, and was thereafter recorded in New York City directories from 1791 to 1800, and again from 1806 to 1808. In 1809 and 1810 Mack was again listed at the same address, 271 Water Street , but this time as a physician. 2 A book by a Doctor Ebenezer Mack, published in 1824 in New York with the title page stating "Sold at 350 Water-Street," was entitled: The Cat-Fight; A Mock Heroic Poem, Supported with Copious Extracts from Ancient and Modern Classic Authors. The title page states that he was also the author of Anatomy in Rhyme, Etc. Works by Ebenezer Mack may be found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The New York Historical Society, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Columbus Museum in Georgia and the Cheekwood Museum of Art in Tennessee. Mack's portrait miniatures are very rare.
  1. Richard H. Saunders, John Smibert: Colonial America’s First Portrait Painter, Yale University Press, p. 125.
  2. Carrie Rebora Barratt and Lori Zabar, American Portrait Miniatures In the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Yale University Press, 2010, p. 62."

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