Ramage, John - portrait of Garrit Van Horne

This miniature is a rare portrait painted by John Ramage (1748-1802) and was acquired recently at a combined live and Internet auction conducted by a large auction house. The miniature is engraved on the reverse; "Garrit Van Horne - Married to - Ann Margaret Clarkson - 16 Novr 1784".

It is also very interesting, as it seems to be a "lost original", which has now been rediscovered.

The auction house had described it as; "A hand-painted portrait miniature brooch/pendant, the oval portrait depicting a fashionable gentleman within borders of beads and half pearls, inscribed to reverse and dated 1784. Length 4.5cm." Thus it was unattributed by them.

However, it looked like a Ramage and before the auction I found an apparently identical miniature in the Manney collection, which is discussed further below.

Needless to say to anyone who has ever bid at an auction, the time; before the auction worrying who else might see it, during the auction worrying how high they might bid, and then during transit worrying about a safe arrival, which itself was much delayed by the Christmas rush, was very stressful.

Fortunately, there was no significant bidding competition for the Van Horne miniature and it was purchased just above a modest high estimate, such as one might expect for an unattributed miniature. Subsequent to the auction, I am very grateful for the expert opinion which has endorsed my tentative view that this miniature was painted by John Ramage.

John Ramage was born in Ireland, but in about 1772 settled in Halifax, Nova Scotia. By 1775 he had moved to Boston. In 1776 he went to New York and quickly became that city's leading miniature painter, a position he held for around ten years. In 1794 he moved to Montreal and died there in 1802.

The number of miniatures painted by Ramage is unknown, but there are quite a number. In his 1921 book "Early American Portrait Painters in Miniature", Theodore Bolton lists twenty, all with named sitters. The sitters in the list included George Washington, as well as Elbridge Gerry discussed further below.

The Washington portrait by Ramage was sold by Christie's for $1,200,000, a record for any miniature portrait. This also made it the most valuable painting in the world of any kind, on a per square inch basis!

The comparison is a little nebulous, but www.askart.com has calculated the Ramage at $382,000 per square inch, compared to the next most expensive American artist, Andy Warhol at $88,000 per square inch.

In the Manney Collection book authored by Dale Johnson, fig 187 and as shown here in black and white, is a miniature attributed to John Ramage, with the same sitter and with an almost identical inscription on the reverse. The only difference being "Novr" in this newly found Van Horne miniature by Ramage, whereas for fig 187 the word November is apparently abbreviated as "Nov". (The Manney collection has since been acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and so fig 187 is now permanently part of the Metropolitan collection.)

As can be seen the frame of this Van Horne miniature is similar to fig 187 with gold beading, although fig 187 does not have a pearl border. The Van Horne miniature is also similar, including having a pearl border, to fig 185 in the Manney collection, although it is even a little more ornate than fig 185.

John Ramage was trained as a goldsmith and did often make his own frames.

The Van Horne frame does not look typically American, but there is an explanation for this, as John Ramage did also import specialist frames from Britain.

Two references which support this are firstly, a reference in the 1930 book "A Sketch of the Life of John Ramage Miniature Painter" by John Hill Morgan.

On page 12 it reads; "But that he did not always make the cases themselves would appear from an advertisement in the Royal Gazette of October 18th and November 15th, 1780, which read as follows: "J Ramage, Miniature Painter, Chapel Street, No. 17, begs leave to acquaint his friends he has received by the last vessels from England, a large assortment of Ivory Chrystals and Cases, with every other thing necessary in his branch of business".

A second and similar reference is quoted by Elle Shushan; "Ramage also imported cases from England, advertising at the height of his fame in 1784, that he had "received from London…the greatest variety of settings for pictures that ever appeared in America…set round with pearl, paist [sic] and garnet… directly from the manufacturers,…will dispose of them at 25 per cent less than any of the articles can be sold for in this City."" See Antiques & Fine Art - Articles - The Art of High Living: Miniature Goldwork

Given the inscribed date of November 1784 on the reverse of the Van Horne miniature, the case must have been part of the 1784 shipment received by Ramage. The year 1784 held significance for Ramage, as his wife Elizabeth died during the year.

One interesting aspect is that the sight size of the Van Horne miniature is 31mm x 26mm. Johnson infers that Ramage's small miniatures relate to his Irish period, which was prior to 1772. However, the similarity of this case to other cases from the 1780's, the 1784 date of the inscription, and the apparent age of Van Horne, given his birth in 1760, indicates that Ramage was purchasing smaller casework and painting smaller images as late as 1784.

This one has a brooch fitting on the rear, which looks to be very old, but is unlikely to be original, as at this time miniatures were made to be worn as bracelets or pendants.

Miniatures by John Ramage rarely come come onto the market. Sometimes miniatures are attributed to him at auction, but they can be wrongly attributed, as there is often confusion between the work of John Ramage and William Verstille. However, Ramage was the much better artist.

In 1999 Skinners of Boston sold a miniature of Mary McCall Cadwalader by John Ramage, but the auction price is unknown. That sitter was closely related to sitters in two Cadwalader miniatures by John Henry Brown in this collection, see View and View where there is also a description of the Ramage Cadwalader miniature.

One miniature showing here in front and rear view, of Elbridge Gerry by Ramage was sold by Elle Shushan in Feb 2001 for $35,000, see Antiques and the Arts Online - As A Barometer For Antiques ... It is now part of the Yale University collection.

Elbridge Gerry (1744-1814) was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. His name gave rise to the term "gerrymander", and this was made famous in a cartoon by Elkanah Tisdale, which can be viewed in this collection, see View

Probably as a result of his ageing, the Gerry miniature sold in 2001 is quite a different image to the miniature of Elbridge Gerry by John Ramage illustrated in Plate XIII of Harry Wehle's 1927 book "American Miniatures".

At that time the two miniatures of Elbridge Gerry and that of his wife as shown here, were both owned by Mr Elbridge T Gerry of NYC.

The miniature of Mrs Elbridge Gerry by John Ramage can also be seen facing page 64 of the 1902 book "Social Life in the Early Republic" by Anne Hollingsworth Wharton, where there is a contemporary quote; "Few bachelors can have been more fortunate in marriage than Mr Gerry. I should have imagined her not more than seventeen and believe he must have turned fifty." (At 21 Ann Thompson was exactly half his age when they married in 1786.)

Another sale of a genuine Ramage was this c1790 miniature of Nicholas Gilman (1755-1814) which was sold by Sotheby's as lot 865 on January 18, 2003 for $42,000. This was double the pre sale estimate.

It is not often a single miniature appears on the auction market twice in a few years, but this Ramage miniature of Gilman was previously sold in 1995, as per this quote which refers also to the 2003 sale; "The miniature of Nicholas Gilman (1755-1814) painted by John Ramage circa 1790 that sold for $16,100 at the Mr. and Mrs. Eddy Nicholson sale at Christie's in 1995, sold for $42,000 to the Winterthur Museum." see Rubin Sale at Sotheby's: Good Taste Pays Off : Maine Antique ...

In 1995 the estimate for the Gilman had been $4000/6000 and it sold for a hammer price of $14,000 ($16,100 including commission). Thus there was a significant increase in value over the eight years from the Jan 1995 estimate, to the 2003 sale price. The sale value of both the Gerry and Gilman miniatures was probably assisted by the intervening sale of the Washington miniature by Ramage.

Although, I have not checked, it seems likely that this Nicholas Gilman is related to the Nathaniel Gilman, depicted in a later miniature portrait in this collection, see View

Contrasting auction records show a wide range of prices. It is interesting to look at the portraits and wonder if they were by Ramage and if so, why the prices are so variable.

Three are shown here. The man in the red coat was offered by Fairfield Auctions on May 20, 2007 as lot 172 and described as " attributed to John Ramage portrait miniature of military officer - 40mm x 30mm - 18th century". It sold for $1300. I do not believe this was by Ramage.

The lady was offered by Stair Galleries on Feb 21, 2004 as Lot 271: "Oval portrait miniature of a lady, attributed to John Ramage. The 3/4 view of a lady with brown curls & lilac dress, gold frame with drapery swag border. 1 7/8 x 1 1/2 in." The estimate was $200/400 and it sold for $10,000. Bidders at the auction, obviously thought this was a genuine Ramage, but look at the original auction estimate!

The man in the blue coat was offered by Stair Galleries at the same sale as Lot #273: "Oval portrait miniature of an officer, attributed to John Ramage. In a gold case with applied loop sides. 1 1/2 x 1 1/4 in." The estimate was $300/500 and it sold for $3,000. Thus it appears buyers doubted this was a genuine Ramage, but again look at the original auction estimate. However, it is possible it is a genuine Ramage, but from his Irish period and the low price reflected this, whereas identified miniatures from his American period tend to attract a substantial premium.

In contrast, the oval miniature of a lady shown here was offered at auction by Freemans on Nov 17, 2007 as lot 2211 - a miniature portrait of Mary Wool, attributed to John Ramage and with an estimate of $10,000/15,000.

However, buyers doubted the attribution and at the auction it sold for a hammer price of $4500. The miniature is probably by William Verstille and the auction price is commensurate with Verstille as the artist.

Although their work is similar and they are often in similar scalloped frames, Ramage was a much better artist than Verstille.

I think the main conclusion to be drawn from the wide range of attributions and prices, is one of a confused and less mature market in America. This comment warrants further explanation.

In Europe there is a mature market. For example in Britain there are three major competing auction houses, each drawing miniature portraits from a wide network of their own branch offices together in one central place. They then have dedicated and well researched sales, based upon an excellent database of previous auction records. Between them, there can be six or ten dedicated sales annually, with around 2,000 miniatures on offer per year, nearly all taking place in London. These auction houses have also developed a wide network of buyers. There are other auction houses in Britain which are not as well organised, but in general the British market can be regarded as sophisticated.

In contrast in America the major auction houses have only one or two branches. There are no countrywide branch networks. For items such as portrait miniatures, the only time they have more than three or four items for sale, is on a dispersal of a major collection. They cannot afford to have the dedicated miniature experts that the British auction houses have. Thus they are unable to research miniatures and do not have the vast research libraries of images and accurate databases of prices. The few miniatures which are offered at auction, appear in different major cities, so the market is even more fragmented. For those reasons, the wider American market can be described as less mature.

As a result, there are auctions like the two Stair Gallery lots mentioned above, where at least one of the two miniatures attributed to Ramage appears to be genuine, and perhaps both, but the pre-sale estimate can be politely described as "amateur" and the auction price was a little disappointing, compared to the Gilman Ramage sold by Sotheby's for $42,000.

At the other extreme was the dedicated catalogue produced by Christie's for the George Washington Ramage.

With the Washington and Gilman Ramages, it appears that Christie's and Sotheby's had the resources to research their auction offerings and then skilfully market them to appropriate buyers.

It also makes a substantial difference to auction prices when an auction house states "by John Ramage", rather than "attributed to John Ramage". Thus, for the maximum benefit of vendors, it is desirable for an auction house to seek expert endorsement prior to an auction.

Other examples of Ramage's work can be seen at; John Ramage. Alexander McDougall, ca. 1785, miniature on ivory and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Since I first wrote the comments above, a knowledgeable visitor has supplied some interesting comments about Ramage which have necessitated some revisions. The expert also provided the following interesting comment;

After seeing your miniature of the same sitter I can say that the Manney piece seems to be a copy of your piece but by Ramage. He frequently copied his own work. As to the Gerry price...it has nothing to do with the sale of the Ramage at Christies and has everything to do with the desirability of the sitter...a signer of the Declaration of Independence, as well as the growing scarcity of good images in American works."

"The George Washington had actually been sold in London about 10 years earlier for $660,000 to Alex Acevedo, who later sold it to Nicholson. Nicholson by the way was the underbidder in that sale and bought it from Alex at about cost, once Alex found out that there were no other interested parties at that time. Everyone who would have been interested had bid and dropped out long before. When it was sold a few years later the market had heated up for historical images and there was a lot of new money floating around."

"On a quality basis it seems way overpriced, considering that it isn't even unique. Ed Paine thought that Ramage may have done as many as twelve and we know of at least four, including one sold by Gary Cole in the 1970's and another in the Met from the 1920's (If I remember correctly) and another in a private collection from the 1950's."

"Almost all of the American miniatures from the 1770s thru the 1780s are in a small format (see all the early CW Peales and Dunkerleys, Verstille etc) so Ramage would be using this size although for the most part,it went out of favor in England. The Van Horne is in keeping with the style and 1770's date. Even later Ramage's work was never much larger. In addition, there is ample evidence from ads that almost all of the American jewelers and framers imported frames from England, at least through to c1800. I have had pieces that were painted in the early 19C that were in obviously English frames. The style of wearing a miniature as a brooch was a 19c thing and the pin backs were added then. I don't remember ever seeing an 18C piece with an original pin back. Even 1 1/2" pieces were worn as pendants if they weren't mounted in slide frames (that's the correct name for a bracelet mount). Smaller pieces were frequently mounted in rings and, at least on the continent, in necklaces. Of course, a lot were set into small shagreen or leather cases and many of these, as well as others whose cases may have been damaged, were reframed in the 19C."

"As to the miniature by Ramage sold by Stair Galleries for $10,000. You can't compare this with the Gilman piece...it's the sitter, not the quality that makes the difference. On the other hand the man in the blue coat sold for a very high price considering that it was a genuine Ramage, but from his Irish period and thus not as desirable."

Turning to the inscription, Garrit Van Horne (1760-22 Feb 1825)(more often referred to as Gerrit Van Horne, but also Garret Van Horne) was a wealthy New York merchant who on 16 November 1784, married Ann Margaret Clarkson (3 Feb 1761-2 Nov 1824), the sister of the Revolutionary War general, Matthew Clarkson (1758-1825).

Gerrit was the son of Gerrit Van Horne (1726-?) also a merchant, and Ann Reade (1726-?). (It was very hard to scan the reverse as the bar could not be moved out of the way, so apologies for the poor reverse image.)

The sitter is wearing a blue coat with a red collar, the same as in this unrelated miniature, which is probably a few years earlier. My knowledge is weak, especially when it comes to uniforms, but the similarity of the two miniatures, suggests an officer's uniform jacket. New York City remained a British possession until November 25, 1783, now referred to as Evacuation Day, see Evacuation Day (New York) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

If it is a uniform, it may be for the militia, the artillery, or for the Continental Line infantry. For Van Horne to be wearing a uniform in 1784, appears to be an indication of his loyalty to the United States after Evacuation Day. As his brother-in-law, Matthew Clarkson was a Revolutionary General, it seems unlikely for the uniform to be British.

The year 1784 was a double celebration as Gerrit's sister Mary Van Horne married Ann Margaret Clarkson's brother, David M Clarkson (1760-1815). During 1785, being the year after their marriage, a mercantile house called Van Horne and Clarkson, was formed by the younger Gerrit Van Horne in conjunction with his brother-in-law (on two counts! - via his sister and via his wife), David M Clarkson.

Gerrit Van Horne and David Clarkson were in 1802, the original purchasers of the eastern four-fifths of the land now occupied by the town of Potsdam. References suggest the mercantile partnership was dissolved around 1809-1810. Gerrit Van Horne lived at 31 Broadway, New York for many years until his death in 1824. (I have not opened the miniature of Gerrit Van Horne, but it would be nice to think that there may be the title deeds to 31 Broadway, NYC inside it!!)

Gerrit Van Horne and Ann Margaret Clarkson had three or four (there are conflicting references) daughters; Mary Elizabeth Clarkson Van Horne (7 Aug 1787-?), Ann Margaret Clarkson Van Horne (7 Sep 1792-?), Mary Y Van Horne (29 Mar 1794-?) and Mary Johanna Van Horne (29 Nov 1799-15 Feb 1873). (It is possible that Mary Y and Mary Johanna are the same person, made to appear different by transcription errors.)

No marriage records have been located for the first three daughters, but the last named, Mary Johanna Van Horne, married Adam Norrie (13 Feb 1796-6 Jun 1882) of Montrose, Angus, Scotland, in New York on 15 May 1827 and they had five children. It is seems likely Mary Johanna Van Horne Norrie was the only daughter to have children and in trying to trace the provenance of this miniature, the Norrie name seems to be the most likely, through one of the two branches discussed below.

Adam Norrie was described by a contemporary; "when he arrived was not remarkable for his beauty, and has not grown more handsome since; but New York has never seen a more energetic or intelligent merchant." His trade goods included Madeira wine.

From his home in Scotland it appears Norrie had gone at an early age to Gottenburg in Sweden and nine years later came to America. There is a fulsome obituary of him at An Upright Life, by Henry Codman Potter (1883) where there is appear to be a reference to him being given the Freedom of the City of Montrose, a dignity also given to Richard Cobden.

In New York, Norrie became the Treasurer of St. Luke's Hospital from its establishment, and his absolute identification with its work continued from that hour until his death. He was also adviser to the St Johnland charity and senior warden for Grace Church.

Norrie appears to have first arrived in New York around 1820 and later made multiple trans-Atlantic crossings. On some of these occasions, such as in 1848, he was accompanied by his wife and four children when they returned on the Cunard liner "Britannia" which was the pioneer Cunarder to open up a trans-Atlantic service. It was a paddle-wheeler with three masts and 115 passenger cabins.

In the 1850 census Adam and Mary J Norrie are recorded living with five children; Margaret (1828-?), Gordon (6 Aug 1830-4 Aug 1909), Mary (1833-?), and Julia (1839-?), as well as four servants. Interestingly, in the household there is also a Margaret Van Horne aged 54, who gives her birthplace as Ireland. It is not clear how she was related to Mary Johanna Van Horne Norrie. To be an unmarried sister, would require her mother to have been in Ireland for her confinement.

Adam Norrie himself was a dry goods merchant in New York and in the 1870 census, disclosed assets of $38,000. In 1870 his wife Mary was still alive and his daughter Julia still lived at home.

The eldest daughter,Ann Margaret Norrie (1828-1906) had married George Louis Augustus Moke (1814-1875) and in the 1860 census they were living in New York with three children and five servants; George being a merchant and disclosing assets of $55,000.

From a newspaper reference in the New York Evening Post, it appears the whole family moved to England, but George Moke died in London on 17 Jan 1875, presumably shortly after they had relocated. In the 1881 census, Ann Margaret Moke, her one son George, then an Oxford undergraduate, five daughters, and eight servants were living at 49 Cromwell Road Court, Kensington, London. It would be interesting to speculate why the family moved to London and set up such a large establishment. Possibly to seek titled husbands for their daughters! For example, Julia married Sir John Paget, but it appears the other daughters did not marry titled husbands.

Ann Margret Noke's eldest son was named George Edward Moke (1 Mar 1858-11 Mar 1920). In the 1891 census, George Edward Moke was an unmarried barrister, but in JFM 1893 he married Beatrice Stephen (1874-1933) in Kensington, London. Their eldest son was born soon afterwards on 26 Sep 1893 and registered as Charles Willoughby Moke Norrie, later 1st Baron Norrie and referred to below. Beatrice appears to be the daughter of Andrew and Eleanor Stephen, a Scottish MD living in Kensington, London in the 1881 census. Beatrice had a younger brother Willoughby Stephen (1876-92) who died the year before her own marriage and so chose the name Willoughby for her son from that association.

Geroge Edward Moke seems to have given up the law, as he was later Major George Edward Moke Norrie, having changed his name, for reasons that are not clear, before Willoughby was born. In the 1901 census, Beatrice Norrie is living in Brighton at age 26 as the head of household, with her widowed mother Eleanor, her three children; Willoughby Norrie, Dorothy Norrie, George Norrie, and eight servants. Presumably her husband was away from home.

Meanwhile in the United States, in 1855 Gerrit's grandson, Gordon Norrie had applied for and was granted a US passport. He was described as 5' 10 1/2"" tall, with a high forehead, grey eyes and brown hair, amongst other characteristics.

Gordon Norrie and his wife Emily (Feb 1836-?) had several children including Alice (1863-?) and Kate (1867-?) who returned to New York from London with their widowed mother on 29 Aug 1890.

For the 1900 census, Gordon Norrie and his wife, Emily Frances Lanfear (Feb 1832-?), who had married in 1855, lived in New York with two other daughters, Sarah G (Mar 1867-?) and Emily F (May 1875-?) and five servants.

His city home was at 877 Fifth Avenue, NYC and he had a summer home at Pequot, New London CT where he died.

It is shown here and was owned by the Norrie family from 1883 until 1944. It is now a residential hall at Mitchell College, see The Council of Independent Colleges: Historic Campus Architecture ...

Gordon Norrie's obituary of November 1909 records that he was prominent in the financial and social life of New York for many years and had been Vice-President of St Luke's Hospital. He was survived by his two sons A Gordon Norrie and A Lanfear Norrie and three daughters; the Misses Mary, Sarah G, and Emily Norrie. His estate paid inheritance tax of $13,000.

In 1882 A Lanfear Norrie, started mining with an initial allowance of $10,000 per year from his father, and turned that into a major iron ore mine, the Norrie iorn ore mine in the Ogebic Range of Michigan, see History of the Great Lakes. Volume I He soon sold his interest in the mine to Carnegie Steel Co for over $1,000,000, a large sum prior to 1900.

Both A Gordon Norrie and A Lanfaer Norrie, and their wives were among the 300 guests at Mrs Astors annual ball on Jan 29, 1900, Mrs Lanfaer Norrie wearing a gown of rose-colored satin. see Mrs. Astor's Annual Ball: Three Hundred Guests Attended 1-29-1900

Mrs A Gordon Norrie (nee Morgan) was very involved in the women's suffrage movement, see Welcome to Hawk Mountain

More research is required on the descendants of Gerrit Van Horne, although it appears at least one of his Norrie grandchildren emigrated to Britain. Also, see RootsWeb's WorldConnect Project: Frederick Philipse Family Tree ... where it appears one of Gerrit Van Horne's great-great-grandsons, Sir Charles Willoughby Moke Norrie (26 Sep 1893-25 May 1977) was Governor-General of South Australia from 1944-1952 and then Governor-General of New Zealand from 1952-1957, after which he was elevated to the peerage as 1st Baron Norrie. See Wiki: Charles Norrie, 1st Baron Norrie and Norrie, Sir Charles Willoughby Moke [Baron Norrie] (1893 - 1977 ... His detailed military career and decorations, including GCMG, KCMG, GCVO, DSO, MC and Bar, is at British Army Officers 1939-1945 -- M 1293


halna said...

The portrait of Garrit Van Horne is very beautiful. It's borders of beads and half pearls added a lot of beauty to this miniature,and perfeclty match the painted portrait.

Ed Shepprd said...

Well the problem of not giving me any access to the book before printing...the Manney book is wrong. I sold this to Alex Acevedo as by Dunkerly, ad that is who painted it. It's not unusual for Alex to have forgotten details like that. It doesn't look anything like Ramage's work.