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American Paintings and Sculpture
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Artist: John Ramage, British, born Ireland, ca. 1748–1802, active United States, 1775–94
Subject: John Taylor, American, died before 1800

John Taylor (died before 1800)

ca. 1775

Watercolor on ivory

1 11/16 × 1 1/4 in. (4.3 × 3.2 cm)
Lelia A. and John Hill Morgan, B.A. 1893, LL.B. 1896, M.A. (Hon.) 1929, Collection
This early miniature, completed soon after John Ramage’s arrival in Boston from Halifax, Nova Scotia, conveys the artist’s masterful technique. Ramage’s sitters are frequently turned slightly to the left, where a point of light against the dark background draws the viewer’s eye to the sitter’s face, which seems to be illuminated from within. Ramage models John Taylor’s face with intricate networks of hatches, while simultaneously leaving areas of ivory in his eyes daringly blank to enhance the contrasts of light and dark that give substance to his flesh. Taylor’s delicately patterned shirt ruffle and gold buttons—their textured edges deftly picked out in gold and brown—convey both the sitter’s prosperity and the artist’s personal delight in fashionable clothes. A notoriously stylish dresser, the painter impressed potential patrons with his “beauish” appearance as well as his artistic abilities. Ramage’s appreciation for the tactile qualities of Taylor’s coat buttons suggests the painter’s skill as a metalworker who often fabricated his miniatures’ gold cases. The year after the miniature’s completion, the Irish-born Ramage returned to Halifax, where he enlisted in a Loyalist regiment in the Revolutionary War.
Made in Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Not on view
18th century

Herbert Lawton, Boston, until 1940; sold at auction, "Early American Silver and Painting from the Collection of Herbert Lawton," Parke-Bernet Galleries, sale 158, January 4, 1940, lot 78 (misattributed to John Singleton Copley); sold to Lelia A. Morgan, New York; to Yale University Art Gallery, 1940

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.