Self-Portrait Artist: John Wood Dodge (1807–1893)


American Paintings and Sculpture

Not on view

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.


Watercolor on ivory


1 5/8 × 1 1/4 in. (4.128 × 3.175 cm)

Credit Line

John Hill Morgan, B.A. 1893, LL.B. 1896, M.A. (Hon.) 1929, Fund

Accession Number



19th century


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 records is ongoing.



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

  • 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
  • "Acquisitions 2004," in "African Art at Yale," special issue, Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2005), 210, ill
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

miniatures (paintings), portraits, self-portraits


Engraved on reverse of locket: "To / Juliette"


Signed and dated on backing paper: "Likeness of/ John W. Dodge/ by himself -- / New Orleans/ March 8th/ 1848."

Signed and dated on second backing paper: "Likeness of/ John W. Dodge/ Painted (from life)/ by himself, for his/ daughter Juliette/ New Orleans/ Finished March 8, 1848."

Technical metadata and APIs


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