Fraser, Charles - portrait of a lady

This miniature portrait was acquired without any attribution, although the vendor did say that the estate it was purchased from, had thought the sitter was from either North Carolina or South Carolina.

Unfortunately, the vendor could not disclose the family name of the estate. The backing paper seems as if it may have been replaced and this may be why the reverse has no signature.

However, from a comparison of the portrait with examples illustrated in the Carolina Art Association Catalogue prepared by Martha Severens, it is believed the miniature is possibly a late work by the Charleston, SC artist, Charles Fraser (1782-1860) or if not, is likely to be a copy of a miniature by him.

It is known that Henry Bounetheau (1797-1877) also of Charleston, SC did frequently copy Fraser's miniatures.

Martha Severens makes the following comment on page 70 of the CAA catalogue, about an 1842 work by Fraser: "Typical of Fraser's later work, (the sitter's) portrait has somber coloring, harsh stippling and a rigid pose. The fact that the stippling around the body aand the head, in particular, is accentuated contributes to a disconcerting halo effect."

Apart from a general comparison of style, the following are the key reasons for attributing any original of this portrait to Fraser.

Firstly, the background close to the head has many fine lines outlining the head. Severens uses the term "halo", but in some instances of Fraser's work, the lines are so pronounced that it almost looks as if a sitter has a "bird's nest" on their head.

Secondly, the size of 80 mm x 108 mm falls right in the range of sizes of rectangular miniatures painted by Fraser.

Thirdly, the pose is very similar to several miniatures by Fraser illustrated in the CAA catalogue, especially the 1840 portrait of Mrs William Mayrant (67.31.1) and the 1848 portrait of Mrs William John Grayson (40.7.1)

Martha Severens also comments:

"The format of Mrs Myrant's portrait [by Fraser] is reminiscent of a type used by Samuel F B Morse for older women. The white bonnet and shawl serve to set off the face, while the red chair adds a comfortable feeling of warmth".

Severens makes a similar comment about the Grayson portrait.

An image of the case is also shown here. It is leather, decorated with a flower pattern, and is 120 mm x 152 mm in size.

Unfortunately, the sitter is unknown. 1240

1 comment: said...


I am in possession of the porcelain water color palette of miniaturist painter John Ramsier. A letter of authenticity accompanies the piece.

Are you aware of anyone who would be interested in such an item or someone who could identify his work if unsigned?