Portrait of Sophie Richards
Samuel Raymond Fanshaw, American, 1814 - 1888
Watercolor over graphite on ivory
2010-57-1Purchased with funds contributed by the Young Friends of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2010
Samuel Fanshaw's portrait of Harriet Sophia Richards (1822-1893), who went by the name of Sophie, is a significant discovery that introduces a new name to the front rank of American miniature painting. In his day, Fanshaw was recognized as a talented artist, trained at the National Academy of Design in New York during the late 1830s and quickly elected to professional membership in 1841. His timing, however, was unfortunate and his ambitions, like those of virtually all miniature painters, were cut short by the invention of photography in 1839 and its rapid popularization during the 1840s.
Of the only five Fanshaw miniatures known today, this is the finest. Moreover, it competes with the best work of any American master of the period. The artist's exceptional sensitivity and variety of touch, delicate modeling, and attention to detail offer an insightful record of the nineteen-year-old sitter on the eve of her marriage. These attributes collectively embody the highest principles of the art as codified in 1834 by Fanshaw's teacher, Thomas Seir Cummings: "works in miniature should possess the same beauty of composition, correctness of drawing, breadth of light and shade, brilliancy, truth of colour, and firmness of touch, as works executed on a larger scale."
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