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American Paintings and Sculpture
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
PrevNext2 of 2
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
Artist: John Wood Dodge, 1807–1893

Self-Portrait

1848

Watercolor on ivory

1 5/8 × 1 1/4 in. (4.128 × 3.175 cm)
John Hill Morgan, B.A. 1893, LL.B. 1896, M.A. (Hon.) 1929, Fund
2004.49.1

Self-portraits painted in miniature, where the small size enhances the intimate bond between sitter and beholder, offer rare insights into the lives of artists. Itinerant miniaturists, whose journals and letters recount their lives spent wandering in pursuit of commissions, painted self-portraits to serve as comfort for family members during long absences. While some miniature frames were commercially manufactured, this rococo revival brooch is hand worked, enhancing the miniature’s uniqueness.

Born in New York City and apprenticed to a sign painter at age sixteen, Dodge taught himself to draw and paint in part by sketching casts in the collection at the National Academy of Design and copying miniatures borrowed from friends. By the time he was twenty-two, he was exhibiting regularly at the Academy, where he was elected an associate in 1832. Having achieved a reputation as a leading miniaturist in New York, Dodge nonetheless moved to the South around 1840 because of ill health. The prosperous artist eventually settled in Crossville, Tennessee, near present-day Pomona, where he and his wife Mary raised eight children (five of whom lived to adulthood) and established a huge apple orchard. From there, he traveled throughout Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, where his sophisticated style resulted in numerous commissions; Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay were among his many prominent clients.

While in New Orleans on March 8, 1848, he listed this self-portrait in his account book: “My own. Small for Juliette.” Dodge painted this token of affection for his five-year-old daughter, Juliette, as a surrogate for himself during his long trips in search of commissions. Seated in a red upholstered chair, the artist gazes tenderly at his intended viewer. Although tiny enough to be worn by a child, the portrait exemplifies Dodge’s technique, combining photograph-like exactness with rich coloring.

Geography: 
Made in Nashville, Tennessee, United States
Status: 
Not on view
Culture: 
American
Period: 
19th century
Classification: 
Miniatures - Jewelry
Provenance: 

Painted by the artist, John Wood Dodge, as a gift for his daughter, Juliette Lavinia Dodge, 1848; by descent in the family from Juliette Lavinia Dodge (Mrs. Charles H. Smith) to her daughter, Estelle Walker Smith; Estelle Walker Smith to her daughter, Juliette Frances Mee; Juliette Frances Mee to her son, David Schuyler Caine; by purchase to Elle Shushan, Augustus Decorative Arts

Bibliography: 

“Acquisitions 2004,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2005): 210, ill.

Art for Yale: Collecting for a New Century, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2007), 76, 77 (detail), 359–60, pl. 60.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.