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Lot 0157
Federal Period
Charles Balthazar Julien Fevret de Saint-Mmin Miniature Portrait Painting Watercolor and Ink On Paper circa 1801 of Theodore Sedgwick (1746-1813) Speaker of the House!
c. 1801 Federal Period, Miniature Portrait Painting, Attributed to artist Charles Balthazar Julien Fevret de Saint-Memin, Identified as Theodore Sedgwick (1746-1813), who was a leading Massachusetts Federalist and United States Congressman (1789-1796); Senator (1796-1798) and Speaker of the House (1799-1801), Philadelphia, Choice Very Fine.
An Original Watercolor and Ink On Paper mounted on thin wood, measuring 3.75” x 4.75”. This painting matches the example listed as # “739” on page 387 of the book, “Saint Memin and the Neoclassical Profile Portrait in America” by Ellen G. Miles. Identified as Theodore Sedgwick, here shown facing right, who was a leading Massachusetts Federalist, served in Congress from 1789-1796, and the Senate from 1796-1798 and back to the Congress from 1799-1801 where he became Speaker of the House.

Theodore Sedgwick (1746-1813) was an American Attorney, Politician and Jurist, who served in elected state government, and as a Delegate to the Continental Congress, a United States Representative and Senator from Massachusetts. During the American Revolutionary War he served in the Continental Army as a major, and took part in the expedition to Canada and the Battle of White Plains in 1776. He was a charter member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1780. He was elected as the fifth Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, serving until March 1801. He was appointed to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in 1802 and served in that position for the rest of his life.

Saint-Memin also created a Theodore Sedgwick, head-and-shoulders engraved portrait, with his left profile featured on paper.

See: “Saint Memin and the Neoclassical Profile Portrait in America” by Ellen G. Miles. This current example is there listed as # 739 located on page 387 of that reference book.
Between 1796 and 1810, Charles Balthazar Julien Févret de Saint-Memin created some of the most memorable images in the history of American portraiture. Nearly a thousand Americans sat for portraits, among them Thomas Jefferson, Paul Revere, Mother Seton, Meriwether Lewis, and Charles Willson Peale.

Saint-Memin's popularity rested on a growing appreciation for profiles as a particularly truthful form of portraiture, and his distinctive images have come to epitomize Federal America.

Saint-Memin was a member of the French hereditary nobility, and came to New York City in 1793, at the age of twenty-three as a former military officer exiled by the events of the French Revolution. In New York, Saint-Mémin turned to the arts to support himself, his parents, and his sister. With some training in drawing and an aptitude for precision, he taught himself the art of engraving. First, he made a few landscapes and city plans, and then, in 1796 he took up the profession of portraitist.

His partner was Thomas Bluget de Valdenuit (1763-1846), also of the French military, and their heir first advertisement appeared in the NEW YORK DAILY ADVERTISER in January 1797: PHYSIOGNOTRACE. LIKENESSES ENGRAVED. The Subscribers beg leave to inform their Friends and the Public in general, that they take and engrave Portraits on an improved plan of the celebrated Physiognotrace of Paris, and in a style never introduced before in this country. From the expedition with which the work is done, and the moderation of the terms, they presume to hope that they will give satisfaction to those who, protectors of the Arts, will please to encourage them with their commands. An exhibition of their performance may be seen at Messrs. Juno. J. Stapples and Sons, No 169 Pearl Street, or by applying at their lodgings, No 11, Fair Street. ST. MEMIN & VALDENUIT.

Valdenuit made the drawings, usually on a buff- or cream-colored paper that measured about 50 by 38 cm. (20 by 15 in.) and was coated with a pink wash. Next, Saint-Memin made the engravings. The sitter received the drawing, the plate, and a dozen engravings, a unique portrait package offered in the United States only by French émigré artists. By the time the two men ended their partnership in September 1797, when Valdenuit returned to France, they had made about sixty large-profile portraits, most of which were engraved, and they had also engraved five silhouettes.

Saint-Mémin continued the business on his own, making an additional sixty portraits in New York City in the following year, a pace that he maintained throughout his American career.

In 1798 he moved the portrait business to Philadelphia, and his parents and sister settled in nearby Burlington, New Jersey. In Philadelphia, and later in Washington, D.C., Saint-Mémin's sitters included senators, congressmen, and cabinet members in the federal government. He also attracted local merchants and landowners, French émigrés like himself, and members of the United States Army, Navy, and Marines.

Most of his patrons were men; when women were portrayed, they were usually the wives or other close relatives of his sitters. William Barton, a Philadelphia lawyer, described Saint-Mémin in 1802 as an ingenious artist. He continued: M. St. Mémin's profiles are, generally, striking likenesses; and, considering the excellence of the workmanship, his price is very moderate.

By 1802, Saint-Mémin's drawing technique had evolved from the light touch characteristic of his New York portraits to a more emphatic style, with strong contrasts. Saint-Mémin rarely signed his drawings; his engravings include his name and address under the image, a practice he later discontinued, perhaps because it became too time-consuming. The package he delivered to his sitters, 25 dollars for men and 35 dollars for women, included the original portrait plate and twelve impressions or copies. Likely the engravings of women were undoubtedly more expensive because the intricate details of their clothing and hair required more work.

Saint Mémin also provided frames for some of the portraits. Many drawings are still in these frames, which were gilded and included a glass decorated with black paint and gold leaf.

After making about 270 portraits in Philadelphia, including two memorial images of George Washington, Saint-Mémin became an itinerant artist in 1803. That year witnessed a heightened interest in all types of profile portraits, a phenomenon that painter Charles Willson Peale described as the rage for profiles.

By this time Louis Lemet (circa 1779-1832), a French émigré who had served as Saint-Mémin's assistant, was making portraits in Philadelphia, in a style very similar to Saint-Mémin's.

From 1803 until 1809, Saint-Mémin traveled south, working in Baltimore, Maryland; Washington, D.C., Richmond,Virginia; and Charleston, South Carolina; and returning to Burlington during the hot summer months to engrave the copperplates and print the engravings.

He also offered watercolor portraits for the first time, perhaps in response to competition from other artists. Between 1803 and 1807, he made about 100 portraits in Baltimore and about 130 in Washington.

Saint-Mémin also portrayed several Indian visitors to Washington, most of whom came to the capital after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.

Saint-Mémin's visit to Richmond in 1807-1808 was particularly successful. He made more than 120 portraits in less than a year, a record number for him. His arrival in the summer of 1807 was undoubtedly timed to coincide with the trial of Aaron Burr for treason, which began on August 3; Burr was acquitted in September. During this period, the population of the city almost doubled with witnesses, Burr partisans, and curious spectators. Many of them commissioned the artist to make their portraits, including John Marshall, the presiding judge at the trial.

In the winter of 1808 -1809, Saint-Mémin made a brief visit to Charleston, but after his return to Burlington, New Jersey in 1809, he made very few portraits.

Saint-Mémin returned to France in 1810, came back to New York in 1812, and his family returned permanently to France in 1814, after the overthrow of Napoleon and the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy. When Saint-Mémin finally left the United States, he destroyed his physiognotrace and ended his career as an artist.

However, he did not abandon his interest in the arts, however in 1817, after he and his family were reinstated on their property in Dijon, he was named director (conservateur) of the Dijon Museum, a position for the rest of his life, except for one brief, politically motivated interruption in 1848, when, during the second French Republic, he was dismissed because of his royalist political views.

Several large sets of his engravings were later compiled from the hundreds of duplicates that the artist owned. The two largest sets--at the National Portrait Gallery and the Corcoran Gallery of Art--have inscriptions that provide the identifications for many of the portraits. Within the restricted format of the profile portrait, Saint-Mémin's drawings and engravings offer an immediacy and realism that is, simultaneously, a stylized and a literal account of many of the residents of Federal America.

Source: The National Portrait Gallery, Ellen G. Miles, Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture.

See: “Saint Memin and the Neoclassical Profile Portrait in America” by Ellen G. Miles. This current example is there listed as # 739 located on page 387 of that reference book.

Starting Bid

$900.00

Buyer's Premium

  • 25%

Charles Balthazar Saint-Memin Portrait Painting

Estimate $1,500 - $2,000Jun 23, 2018
P.O. Box 3507
Rancho Santa Fe, CA 92067
United States
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