Saturday

Melocchi, Pittrice E - Classical copies

Here is the Mona Lisa and a miniature copy copy of it painted by Melocchi. There are obvious differences, but the skill of the miniaturist in capturing the fine detail has to be admired.

Decorative copies are frowned upon by most collectors of miniature portraits, but there is no clear distinction between what should be described as a "decorative copy" and as a "genuine miniature".

The current example demonstrates how it is possible to have a painted miniature version of perhaps the most famous painting in the world and admire the skill of both artists in a manner which is not possible with a print of the original.

Most decorative miniatures were churned out in the late 19C and early 20C as multiple copies painted with minimal skill in factory type workshops, often with a few painted highlights over a printed outline. These normally have fake or fictitious signatures. They often have frames made out of old piano keys and pages from old books on the reverse to give a false impression of their ages. Hence they were generally intended to deceive, and many are now offered for sale as original 18C portraits, by sellers who have only limited knowledge. Sometimes this is in good faith by people who have inherited them from Grandma or Great-Grandma, and now assume they are real 18C miniatures, whereas the Grandma who originally purchased the portrait nearly 100 years ago, knew well it was only a copy. Fortunately, it only requires a little study to distinguish them as decorative copies.

However, some were painted with more care by artists who took more care and were proud enough of their work to include a proper signature.

The miniature portraits appearing here demonstrate this point. They appear to date from 1920-1930 and to have been sold to tourists between World War I and World War II. There are likely to be multiple examples, but the skill of the artist is a cut above that of most decorative copies.

They are all clearly copies of classical portraits, but they are also clearly signed by the miniature artist, E Melocchi, Via Luca Landucci 45 Firenze (Florence, Italy). With one giving his full name as Pittrice E Melocchi.

The miniature of La Gioconda (more often named a portrait of the Mona Lisa) is noted as a copy of the portrait by Leonardo da Vinci, and the two other portraits are identified as copies of self-portraits of Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo from the originals in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

I have seen other examples by this artist, such as this copy of Botticelli recently sold on Ebay. I have also seen a duplicate of the Michelangelo portrait.

A visitor recently asked me about another two similar classical miniatures of 18C ladies of the French Court, also by Melocchi.

The building housing Via Luca Landucci 45 is still in Florence, as appearing here, but Melocchi seems to be long gone.

The values of such decorative miniatures can vary a great deal. I purchased La Gioconda on eBay for $280 in 2008 and the Botticelli sold on eBay in December 2011 for $350. However, the self-portraits of da Vinci and Michelangelo were purchased as a pair on eBay in December 2011 for only £70 including shipping.

Thus it is still possible to pick up bargains and being able to match La Gioconda with a portrait of da Vinci as the artist, with both painted by Melocchi enhances them even more. 1338, 1458, 1459

Monday

Berteaux - Portrait of Eugene Beauharnais

This miniature portrait is signed by an artist named Berteaux. This does not appear to be the name of an acknowledged miniature artist, so the portrait is more of a cross-over type between a "genuine" miniature and a "decorative" one. The quality puts it out of the normal range for a decorative miniature.

The sitter is Eugène Rose de Beauharnais, Prince Français, Prince of Venice, Viceroy of the Kingdom of Italy, Hereditary Grand Duke of Frankfurt, 1st Duke of Leuchtenberg and 1st Prince of Eichstätt ad personam (3 September 1781 – 21 February 1824). He was the first child and only son of Alexandre, Vicomte de Beauharnais and Joséphine Tascher de la Pagerie, future wife of French Emperor Napoléon I. His natural father was executed during the revolutionary Reign of Terror. For a miniature portrait of his father, which is in this collection, see View

Eugene was born in Paris, France and became the stepson and adopted child (but not the heir to the imperial throne) of Napoleon. He commanded the Army of Italy and was viceroy of Italy under his stepfather. Historians have looked upon him as one of the ablest of Napoleon's relatives.

Although there are obvious differences, it appears the miniature was inspired by the same original as was a portrait of Eugene in uniform by the famous artist Jachues-Louis David. Another version, in similar pose but wearing a black cloak dates from 1837. So far I have not located an original version depicting the same green uniform as appears above. However, it is probable that the "missing" original wearing a green uniform pre-dates the black uniform in the David portrait, as Eugene appears to be of higher rank and is wearing more decorations in the David portrait.

According to Wikipedia, Eugène's first campaign was in the Vendée, where he fought at Quiberon. However, within a year his mother Joséphine had arranged his return to Paris. In the Italian campaigns of 1796–1797, Eugène served as aide-de-camp to his stepfather, whom he also accompanied to Egypt. In Egypt, Eugène was wounded during the Siege of Acre (1799). He returned to France in the autumn of 1799 and helped bring about the reconciliation which then took place between Bonaparte and his mother, torn apart by each other's affairs. When Napoleon became First Consul, Eugène became a captain in the Chasseurs à Cheval of the Consular Guard and with his squadron he took part in the Battle of Marengo.

During the War of the Fifth Coalition, Eugène was put in command of the Army of Italy, with General Étienne-Jacques-Joseph-Alexandre MacDonald as his military advisor. In April 1809 he fought and lost the Battle of Sacile against the Austrian army of the Archduke John, but Eugène's troops decisively won the rematch at the Battle of Raab that June. After the Battle of Aspern-Essling, Napoleon recalled the Army of Italy and after joining the main army, on the island of Lobau in the Danube, Eugène took part in the Battle of Wagram.

During the Russian campaign, Eugène again commanded the Army of Italy (IV Corps) with which he fought in the Battle of Borodino and the Battle of Maloyaroslavets. After Napoleon and then Joachim Murat had left the retreating army, Eugène took command of the remnants and led it back to Germany in 1813.

During the campaign of 1813, Eugène fought in the Battle of Lützen. Napoleon then sent him back to Italy, where he organised the defence against the Austrians, holding out on the Mincio until the abdication in 1814. After the fall of Napoleon in 1814, Eugène retired to Munich and at the behest of his father-in-law Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria, did not get involved with Napoleon and France again. 1449

Unknown - Empress Eugenie of France

A kind visitor has assisted me to identify this miniature portrait, by an unknown artist, as representing Empress Eugenie of France (5 May 1826 – 11 July 1920). As can be seen, it is a miniature copy of a famous portrait by Winterhalter. The background has unfortunately been over-painted, so restoration will be needed at some point.

Her full name was Doña María Eugenia Ignacia Augustina de Palafox-Portocarrero de Guzmán y Kirkpatrick, 16th Countess of Teba and 15th Marquise of Ardales. She was known as Eugénie de Montijo and was the last Empress consort of the French from 1853 to 1871 as the wife of Napoleon III.

Eugénie de Montijo, as she became known in France, was educated in Paris, at the fashionable Convent of the Sacré Cœur. When Prince Louis Napoléon became president of the Second Republic, she appeared with her mother at several balls given by the "prince-president" at the Elysée Palace; it was there that she met the future emperor. In a speech from the throne on 22 January, Napoleon III formally announced his engagement, saying, "I have preferred a woman whom I love and respect to a woman unknown to me, with whom an alliance would have had advantages mixed with sacrifices".

The match was looked upon dubiously in the United Kingdom. The Times editorialized: "We learn with some amusement that this romantic event in the annals of the French Empire has called forth the strongest opposition, and provoked the utmost irritation. The Imperial family, the Council of Ministers, and even the lower coteries of the palace or its purlieus, all affect to regard this marriage as an amazing humiliation..."

Napoleon III married countess Eugenie in 1853, and it was in anticipation of this marriage that he ordered the court jewellers Gabriel Lemonnier and Francois Kramer to create an entirely new parure using the pearls previously used by Marie Louise and Marie Therese. The Empress Eugenie Pearl and Diamond Tiara, the subject of this miniature, was an important component of this pearl parure. Other components include a six-stranded pearl necklace, pearl bracelets and a diamond stomacher incorporating the "Perle Napoleon." When Eugenie had access to the crown jewels of France, she set about transforming most of the old pieces, into new settings, to suit her own taste and the fashion trends of the period. Apart from re-setting old pieces, she also added several new pieces to the crown jewels of France, and commissioned a Greek diadem incorporating the famous Regent diamond, once mounted on the hilt of Napoleon's sword. In 1855, when Eugenie accompanied Napoleon III on a state visit to Britain, she wore the Pearl and Diamond Tiara, on two consecutive nights for dinner at Windsor Castle, held on April 17 and 18, 1855.

On 16 March 1856, the empress gave birth to an only son, Napoléon Eugène Louis Jean Joseph Bonaparte, styled Prince Impérial. Her husband often consulted her on important questions, and she acted as Regent during his absences in 1859, 1865 and 1870. A Catholic and a conservative, her influence countered any liberal tendencies in the emperor's policies. She was a staunch defender of papal temporal powers in Italy and of ultramontanism. She was blamed for the fiasco of the French intervention in Mexico and the eventual death of Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico.

When the Second French Empire was overthrown after France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71), the empress and her husband took refuge in England, and settled at Chislehurst, Kent. After his death in 1873, and that of her son in 1879, she moved in 1885 ,alternating between Farnborough, Hampshire and her villa "Cyrnos" (ancient Greek name of Corsica), which was built at Cape Martin, between Menton and Nice, where she lived in retirement, abstaining from politics. Her house in Farnborough is now an independent Roman Catholic girls' school, Farnborough Hill.

After the deaths of her husband and son her health started to deteriorate. Her physician recommended she visit Bournemouth which was, in Victorian times, famed as a health spa resort. During her visit in 1896, a groundskeeper lit hundreds of little tea candles in the municipal Bournemouth Gardens to light her way to the sea at night. This event is still commemorated in the same gardens every September in an elaborate public display, set to music, of both static and floating lighted candles.

The former empress died in July 1920, aged 94, during a visit to her relatives, the Dukes of Alba in Madrid, in her native Spain, and she is interred in the Imperial Crypt at St Michael's Abbey, Farnborough, with her husband and her son, who had died in 1879 fighting in the Zulu War in South Africa. 1447

Saturday

Unknown - Prince Louis and Princess Alice of Hesse

This pair of miniature portraits are tightly riveted in small gold cases, so it is not practical to open them. Hence it is not possible to tell whether they are painted on ivory, or on card over-painted on a photographic base. They are very small at 26mm x 23mm.

Nevertheless, they are an interesting pair, being of Prince Louis of Hesse and his wife Princess Alice, second daughter of Queen Victoria of England, see View

The case of Prince Louis is inscribed "Louis of Hesse / 1st July 1862 / From Alice and Louis / Xmas 1862" with that of Princess Alice inscribed "Alice / 1st July 1862 / From Alice and Louis / Xmas 1862".

Thus they appear to have been intimate Christmas gifts, perhaps as a thank-you for wedding presents from July 1862. Although one might expect there to be other similar examples in existence, so far none seem to be known.

A kind expert has advised;
You are right to draw a comparison with the miniature by Charles
Lepec of Prince Louis in the Royal Collection, based, probably on a
photograph by F. Backhofen of Darmstadt, although it differs from yours
in being in enamel on gold. Yours look to me to be in watercolour on
card. I have searched through the transcriptions of the archival material
which I have from 1862 which I have but unfortunately can find no
reference which equates with the two miniatures in your possession.
Sadly, without opening the miniatures, it may not be possible to
identify the creator, particularly in this case where they are clearly
derived from photographs. Queen Victoria commissioned miniatures from
photographic colourists such as John Horrak/Horrach (fl. 1861-2) who is
the sort of artist who could have been responsible for your miniatures,
if indeed they were made in London. It is also possible that they were
made in Darmstadt.


Princess Alice (25 April 1843 – 14 December 1878) was a member of the British royal family, the third child and second daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. In 1861, Prince Albert became ill with typhoid fever, and Alice nursed him through his final illness before he died on 14 December. Following his death, Queen Victoria entered a period of intense mourning, and Alice spent the next six months acting as her unofficial secretary.

While the court was still at the height of mourning, on 1 July 1862, Alice married Prince Louis of Hesse, heir to the Grand Duchy of Hesse. The ceremony—conducted privately and with unrelieved gloom at Osborne House—was described by the Queen as "more of a funeral than a wedding". The life of the Princess in Darmstadt was unhappy as a result of impoverishment, family tragedy and worsening relations with her husband and mother.

Alice was a prolific patron of women's causes, especially nursing, and was a follower of Florence Nightingale. When Hesse became involved in the Austro-Prussian War, and Darmstadt filled with the injured, the heavily pregnant Alice devoted much of her time to the management of field hospitals. One of her organisations, the Princess Alice Women's Guild, became a national one, and took over much of the day-to-day running of the military hospitals in Darmstadt. Furthermore, she befriended and promoted the theologian David Friedrich Strauss, who provided an intellectual basis for her faith instead of the traditional sentimentality of Victorian religion.

In 1877, Alice became Grand Duchess following the accession of her husband, and her duties put a further strain on her health. The following year, she travelled to England for the last time, holidaying in Eastbourne at the Queen's expense.

In the later months of 1878, diphtheria infected the Hessian court, and Alice nursed her family for over a month before falling ill herself. She died on the 17th anniversary of her father's death, 14 December 1878, at the New Palace in Darmstadt.

Princess Alice was mother of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (the wife of Emperor Nicholas II of Russia) and the maternal great-grandmother of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, consort of Queen Elizabeth II.

Louis IV (Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig Karl) (12 September 1837 – 13 March 1892), was the fourth Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine, reigning from 13 June 1877 until his death.

Through his own and his children's marriages he was connected to the British Royal Family, to the Imperial House of Russia and other Royal Houses of Europe.

There is a modern portrait of Empress Alexandra (1872-1918) in this collection. She was murdered in 1918.

Also in this collection is a contemporary miniature portrait, by Adolf Helzel, of two of the grandchildren of Louis and Alice, the Grand Duchesses Olga (1895-1918) and Tatiana (1897-1918) who were also murdered in 1918.

For more about these see View 1425

Wednesday

Winberg, Ivan - portrait of Tsar Alexander II

Two assassinations - Alexander II and Abraham Lincoln
Two great reformers were assassinated in the 19C. They are depicted here, Tsar Alexander II and President Abraham Lincoln, in a dual portrait prepared for an exhibition in Moscow in February 2011.

Also showing is an important miniature portrait recently acquired for this Artists and Ancestors collection. It is by Ivan Winberg, a Swedish miniaturist who worked in Russia c1825-1845. It is quite large at 116mm x 83mm, with other royal portraits by Winberg being of similar size.

When the miniature was purchased it was described as being of Tsar Nicholas I (1796-1855), but from a comparison with the images of Nicholas I and Alexander II here and below, the sitter appears in fact to be Tsar Alexander II (1818-1881). A kind researcher from the Hermitage Museum advises that the portrait seems to date from around 1840.












Christie's -Winberg, Nicholas I
Winberg, Nicholas I


Christie's - Winberg, Alexander II
Theer - Alexander II 1839
Lavrov - Alexander II


It is a little hard to tell with the small images here, of which larger versions were sent to me by a kind visitor from Russia (left click on them for larger versions), but close inspection shows that the Winberg miniature portrait depicts Alexander II in the same pose and wearing the same decorations as in the left-hand portrait. In the centre portrait, a blue sash has been added to the same medals, and in the right-hand portrait, he has additional medals. It therefore seems likely that the left-hand portrait and the Winberg miniature were painted around 1840, with the centre one painted immediately after his 1855 accession, and the right-hand one a little later in 1855, after his Order of St George had been raised from Fourth Class to First Class with a white cross.

Alexander II demonstrated his bravery when he served in the Caucasian army and helped to repulse an attack by wild tribesmen. He was awarded the Order of St. George (fourth class) for his heroism. It can be seen as the left most decoration in the Winberg miniature. Established in the Russian Empire in 1807, it was granted to non-commissioned officers, soldiers and sailors for their military heroism. After Alexander II's accession, in 1856 it was split into four degrees. On 26 November, 1869 Alexander became one of only 25 people to ever be awarded the First Degree of a white enamelled cross pattée with a central disc bearing the image of St. George on horseback slaying the dragon. The change to a white cross can be seen in the right-hand portrait and also in the Lavrov portrait, showing that was also painted after 1869.

Below are miniatures in this collection of his grandfather, Alexander I (1777-1825) see View , his father Nicholas I (1796-1855) see View , and grandson, Nicholas II (1868-1918). Missing is his son, Alexander III (1859-1894).



Ivan Winberg (died in 1851 in St. Petersburg) was a well-known Russian miniaturist of Swedish origin. He was a son of Swedish goldsmith Andreas Winberg, who was working in St. Petersburg in 1791-1816. From the early 1820s he studied at St. Petersburg Imperial Academy; in 1830 he received the title of "naznacheny" (appointed) artist and, in 1846 - titles of professor and academician (Member of the Academy) of miniature painting. He regularly exhibited his miniatures at annual academic exhibitions (1824, 1833, 1836, etc.). Among his works were miniature portraits (on ivory) of Alexander I, Nikolai I, Prince Kochubei, Count Sukhtelen, Empress Alexandra Fedorovna, Alexander II (as Grandduke), etc. These (as well as many other works of Ivan Winberg) portraits can be viewed in most esteemed museums of Russia: Tretyakov Gallery, Russian Museum, Hermitage, etc.

There is another miniature portrait by Ivan Winberg in this collection. It is this portrait of an aristocratic Russian lady who is wearing a miniature portrait of an army officer on her wrist. 953

For more details of it, see View

Thursday

Autant, M - portrait of Art Nouveau lady

Miniature portraits from the late 19C and early 20C sometimes had an Art Nouveau theme, as with this exceptionally large miniature which has a sight size of 200mm x 130mm. The frame is carved and gilded. Being so large, it has suffered a vertical stress fracture but that does not detract from the unusual subject and the skill of the artist, particularly in depicting the drapery of her dress.

It is signed at the lower left "M Autant". Blattel says little about Autant, other than that he was a Belgian artist active in the 19C. To the left is a stylized forest and on the right a statue of a winged figure on a plinth, looking downwards at a group of romantic or Italianate buildings. It is quite unusual to find a Romanic or Art Nouveau type miniature of a generic nature, depicting a subject matter more often associated with larger paintings of the period.  

There was a M Autant, an architect, who was involved as a witness in the Emile Zola trial, itself connected to the famous Dreyfus trial, but it has not been confirmed that he is same person, although it is possible.

There is also a reference to M Autant in connection with;
SANOUILLET. Lyre & Pallette or Art & Life, which later became Art & Action. A dramatic company formed by Louise Lara, ex-secretary of the French Comedy & her husband Mr. Autant. Courses of dramatic art at the theatres of Paris were offered by the war office, as rallying points for artists dispersed by the hazards of war. These included presentations of the Mamelles de Tirésias (June 1917), Colors of time (Nov. 1918), The Cuirs de Boeuf (Dec. 1918), of Georges Polti to the Academy Rene Maubel, known as of the plays of the world (déc.1918), P. Méral To the Old Dovecote; and The Parade (May 1917), etc See Cat. Collection Art & Action. BLJD, 50.282.


But so far there is no certainty over the identity of this artist. Thus any assistance in identifying him further would be welcomed. 1348

Monday

Helzel, Adolf - Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana

A rare and desirable miniature portrait on ivory is this one of the two eldest daughters of Tsar Nicholas II which is signed A Helzel Berlin. It is 70mm in diameter. Depicted in the miniature are Olga (1895-1918) and Tatiana (1897-1918). It was copied from a newspaper photograph of 1913 as shown below.

But when one thinks of the circumstances, it is a rare survivor. A year, later in 1914, Germany was at war with Russia, so a German artist living in Berlin could not risk painting a portrait of the Russian royal family. Four years later the Tsar had been deposed and in 1918 the whole Romanov family was murdered, so it also became dangerous for Russians to own a portrait of their royal family. Thus there can be very few contemporary miniature portraits of the family still in existence.

Blattel records very little about Adolf Helzel, only that he he lived in Bodenbach and Bohemia, was active in 1894, and was an owner of a porcelain painting company with his brothers, Emanuel and Heinrich. Other family members may have included August Helzel, and an earlier glass blower, Wilhelm Helzel. Adolph Helzel exported champagne and other wines glasses to the United States, but the New York Times reported that the importing agents ran foul of  Customs with their declared values, which were held to be too low.

A little research suggests that he was likely the son of Franziskus Helzel and Aloisa Ludovia Guirand who were married there on 31 December 1846. He married Adelaide Amalie Suchy on 23 August 1875 at Stein-Schooenau, Decin, Czechoslovakia and they had a daughter, Martha Melanie Wilhelmine Helzel who was born on 27 September 1882. Martha married Robert Carl Joseph Emil Manzer on 19 October 1910 at Karlsbad, Vary Karlovy, Czechoslovakia and died on 30 December, 1949.

The collection also includes another miniature signed; "A Helzel Berlin". The sitter is H.R.H. Ernst August, Duke of Cumberland (1845 - 1923), formerly the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Hanover. He was a great grandson of King George III of England. He wears the uniform of the Austrian Infantry regiment of which he was honorary Colonel. As such he was a distance cousin of Olga and Tatiana. Blattel says Helzel was active around 1894, but these two portraits suggest he was still active twenty years later.
























The original studio or news photo of 1913 that the miniature was copied from is shown here. There are several in the series in different poses, but it is clear this was the inspiration for the miniature. During her lifetime, Olga's future marriage was the subject of great speculation within Russia. Matches were rumored with Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich of Russia, Crown Prince Carol of Romania, Edward, Prince of Wales, eldest son of Britain's George V, and with Crown Prince Alexander of Serbia. Olga herself wanted to marry a Russian and remain in her home country. Olga's murder following the Russian Revolution of 1917 resulted in her canonization as a passion bearer by the Russian Orthodox Church. In later years, when dozens of people made claims to be surviving members of the imperial family, a woman named Marga Boodts claimed to be Grand Duchess Olga, but her claim was not taken seriously.

Tatians was better known than her three sisters during her lifetime and headed Red Cross committees during World War I. Like her older sister, Olga, she nursed wounded soldiers in a military hospital from 1914 to 1917, until the family was arrested following the first Russian Revolution of 1917. Their murder by revolutionaries on 17 July 1918 resulted in her being named as a passion bearer by the Russian Orthodox Church. They was assassinated along with her family at Ekaterinburg. Their remains were identified through DNA testing and were buried during a funeral ceremony in 1998 at Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg along with those of her parents.

A legitimate question for collectors is; "Is this a decorative miniature?" There is no straight answer to that, with the miniature showing there was a cross-over between "genuine" and "decorative" miniatures. This was not new in 1913, one hundred years earlier Henry Bone and his son Henry Pierce Bone copied other portraits, and their enamel miniatures are now highly prized.

Early and Modern Russian Decorative Miniatures
Elsewhere in this collection are a number of decorative miniature portraits of Russian monarchs. They include Peter the Great and Catherine the Great. 844a, 868

Also a miniature portrait by an unknown artist, which is a copy of a well known portrait of Alexander I (1777-1825) and one of Nicholas I (1796-1855). 1120 1058


Since 1990 the Russian royal family has regained nostalgic popularity, to the extent that decorative miniatures are again being painted, some of them are of a high standard. Shown here are four Russian miniatures painted since 2000. They are of Tsar Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra, together with two of his children, Grand Duchess Tatania amd Grand Duchess Anastasia.

This type of miniature is called Fedoskino or Palekh miniatures, after the Russian villages where many are still painted using lacquer on a papier-mache base. For more about them see Russian lacquer miniature - Fedoskino These can be purchased relatively inexpensively and would make a great basis for a collection for anyone interested in collecting miniature art, but with a tight limit on the amount of money they can spend.

Thus miniatures by Fedoskino artists provide a means of forming an attractive and inexpensive collection, and in doing so provide an insight into the times and events associated with the original sitters.