Howes, Samuel P - portrait of a young lady

This miniature portrait was acquired as a pair, together with the accompanying portrait by Nathaniel Rogers. At that time they were both unattributed.

An attribution for the artist who painted this miniature is not as certain as for the Rogers, but one possible artist is Mrs Moses B Russell, also known as Clarissa Peters Russell. However, it could be a later work by her husband Moses B Russell, after he had been influenced by her style.

A kind visitor to the collection has since suggested a third possible artist for this miniature is Samuel P Howes (1806-1881) who resided in Lowell, Massachsetts, primarily painting large oil portraits, but also some miniatures. This suggestion focuses particularly on the cross-hatched background and the shape of the mouth, but also the clothes, necklace, and hair.

Miniatures by Samuel P Howes are rare and hence, there were very few published examples to make a comparison with. However, there is a 1986 exhibition catalogue of his larger portraits on oil which does include one miniature by him. It is difficult to generalise, when comparing miniatures and large oils, but in his work of around 1845, there are several examples showing large draperies painted in a similar manner to this miniature. The 1986 catalogue also contains the following comments on his style, which were written by Paul D'Ambrosio. As the catalogue is very hard to obtain, the comments are repeated in detail below.

"Howes rendering of anatomical features is distinct. His sitter's faces are particularly recognisable as the product of his hand. They are invariably shown in a three-quarter view with an awkwardly turned nose and thick, full cupid's bow lips. All but a few of his first known sitters have elliptical irises. Young children are sometimes depicted with chubby, rounded cheeks. In all of the portraits, the shading of the face and neck is convincingly rendered, giving the sitters a naturalistic appearance."

"Many of the adult sitters have one hand draped over the arm of a chair or sofa, slanting diagonally downward. Often the hand is marked by a pointed thiumb and the slightly extended position of the index and middle fingers. Howes adult sitters of the late 1830's and 1840's also have attenuated arms that, in the male portraits, have a rubbery bend at the elbows. Some of the women's portraits of this time have slim stylized torsos."

"Howes female sitters are frequently adorned with a variety of jewelry including earrings, necklaces, brooches, and rings. There are a variety of background treatments that characterize Howes' work. Drapery, typically a rich red shaded in black, begins to appear in 1839 and is handled in a number of ways. ..... An array of objects used as props can be seen in the various portraits, the most common of which is a book." At this point the attribution to Howes seems the most likely.

Both this and the miniature by Rogers were housed together in a very cheap and combined modern frame from around 1990, which detracted from their appearance and no doubt contributed to the artists not being recognised by the vendor.

Although this portrait is no longer attributed to Mrs Moses B Russell, some comments on her work are relevant as it does have some similarities with her work. In Johnson's book about the Manney Collection figs 209 and 210 are actually by her and not by her husband, as attributed in the book. Both those young ladies are sitting holding a book in a similar pose.

The following comments from Johnson are also relevant "Details of dress and interior furnishings are very decorative, incorporating a variety of patterns. Flowers or vines are often introduced at the edges of the composition. Pale skin tones contrast with deep shades of fabrics, against striated backgrounds..."
Here the young lady is sitting on a decorative sofa and flowers can be seen outside the window. Although difficult to see, there is a great deal of detail on her dress, including a lace bodice right across her chest and lace cuffs on her dress.

This is the only American miniature in the collection that has a rare crystalline growth over parts of the miniature. It can best be seen as a lace like effect on her neck. The sitter is unknown. 1239

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