James Alexander Fulton of Mount Erin
In this portrait of a Virginia plantation owner, the French émigré and itinerant artist Charles de Saint-Mémin achieved his precise realism with the aid of a physiognotrace, a mechanical device for tracing a silhouette. After establishing the outline of the head, the artist described the details of the sitter’s appearance with different media that capture a variety of textures and forms.
The vogue for profile portraits on both sides of the Atlantic about 1800 was influenced by Neoclassical taste, as well as by popular ideas on physiognomy, a pseudoscientific notion that a person’s character was manifest in the shapes of his or her facial features. Saint-Mémin produced nearly a thousand images of prominent sitters during his years in the United States, including a companion to this one, of Fulton’s wife, Elizabeth (on display nearby).
- Artist: Charles Balthazar Julien Févret de Saint-Mémin, French, 1770-1852, active in America 1793-1814
- Medium: Black crayon, pastel, charcoal, and white chalk on paper coated with pink opaque watercolor and pastel mounted to wood-pulp board
- Dates: ca. 1808
- Dimensions: sheet: 21 5/16 x 15 1/4 in. (54.1 x 38.7 cm) (show scale)
- Signature: Unsigned
- Collections:American Art
- Museum Location: This item is not on view
- Accession Number: 30.1104
- Credit Line: Museum Collection Fund
- Rights Statement: No known copyright restrictions
- Caption: Charles Balthazar Julien Févret de Saint-Mémin (French, 1770-1852, active in America 1793-1814). James Alexander Fulton of Mount Erin, ca. 1808. Black crayon, pastel, charcoal, and white chalk on paper coated with pink opaque watercolor and pastel mounted to wood-pulp board, sheet: 21 5/16 x 15 1/4 in. (54.1 x 38.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Collection Fund, 30.1104
- Record Completeness: Best (87%)