Sully, Thomas - portrait of a young lady

This miniature was acquired as a single lot, together with the adjacent portrait now attributed to Lawrence Sully. As noted there the two miniatures were acquired at a public auction in Columbia, SC where they were described as "Continental school (late 19th century)" with the stated provenance "Property from the estate of a Southern lady". The auction description was also wrong for this miniature, as this one is American from around 1795-1810, the frame being distinctively American, although the hanger is now missing, as is the central insert on the rear. The frame has a somewhat crude, hand-made appearance, and imitates a style previously developed in Ireland.

This miniature is also unsigned, but it has been attributed to Lawrence's younger brother, Thomas Sully (1783-1872), however it is possible it is also by Lawrence Sully. Thomas Sully was introduced to miniature painting by his school friend Charles Fraser. They both became very famous artists of 19C America. Sully also trained with his brother in Charleston SC in 1799 before moving to Virginia. Thus Columbia fits with Thomas Sully's general area of work around 1800, until 1806 when he moved to north to New York and later Philadelphia. He then went to London in 1809 and returned in 1810.

Few miniatures by Thomas Sully are available for comparison. However, one good example can be seen at Kenmore Collections - Maria Carter Tucker This one of Maria Tucker painted in 1805, has a very similar tilt to the subject's head, similar mouth and eyes, and also the way her hair is shown on her neck. It is also markedly sentimental in style.

In commenting on the early work of Thomas Sully, Johnson noted "These early miniatures show fine attention to detail... Study in England transformed Sully's characteristic portraits to flattering, dashing, romantic likenesses, often bordering on sentimentality."

Those comments fit this miniature. 1251b

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