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Portrait of a Gentleman/Mourning Miniature


American Art

On View: Luce Visible Storage and Study Center, 5th Floor
Miniatures commissioned upon the death of a loved one epitomize the sentimental nature of these objects. In this double-sided locket, the finely rendered portrait of the deceased serves as a memento of the sitter, while the mourning scene on the reverse  functions to memorialize his life. Mourning miniatures typically combined stock iconography—a bereaved figure, tomb, and weeping willow—with individualized inscriptions. To further personalize the object, a lock or plait of the subject’s hair was set into the casework, or chopped hair was mixed into the paint used to depict leaves and grass, as in this example.
ARTIST Unknown
MEDIUM Watercolor on ivory with human hair housed in metal locket with glass lenses
DATES late 18th century
DIMENSIONS Recto (sight): 2 15/16 x 2 3/8 in. (7.5 x 6 cm) Verso (sight): 1 3/4 x 1 5/16 in. (4.4 x 3.3 cm) Frame: 3 3/16 x 2 5/8 in. (8.1 x 6.7 cm) Frame (height with loop): 3 3/4 in. (9.5 cm)  (show scale)
INSCRIPTIONS Inscribed on memorial on verso: "SACRED WILL / I EVER KEEP / THY DEAR / REMAINS / ES [in monogram]"
CREDIT LINE Bequest of Samuel E. Haslett
CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Recto is a bust portrait of a white-haired man in dark coat and white shirt facing to his left. Verso is a mourning image of woman at a tombstone (see inscription) flanked by a weeping willow tree and a winged cherub, another cherub in sky above; human hair used in ground and tree leaves.
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Luce Visible Storage and Study Center, 5th Floor
CAPTION Unknown. Portrait of a Gentleman/Mourning Miniature, late 18th century. Watercolor on ivory with human hair housed in metal locket with glass lenses, Recto (sight): 2 15/16 x 2 3/8 in. (7.5 x 6 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of Samuel E. Haslett, 21.478 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 21.478_recto_acetate_bw_SL1.jpg)
IMAGE recto, 21.478_recto_acetate_bw_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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