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American Paintings and Sculpture
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
Artist: Unknown

Gentleman (Memorial on reverse)

ca. 1820–25

Watercolor, natural, and chopped hair on ivory

1 7/8 × 1 7/16 in. (4.8 × 3.7 cm)
Lelia A. and John Hill Morgan, B.A. 1893, LL.B. 1896, M.A. (Hon.) 1929, Collection
1940.540
This portrait miniature features a memorial on its reverse. With three sets of initials inscribed on tombs, the memorial image expresses considerable loss. While the miniaturist used watercolor for the tombstones and foliage, the weeping willow and flowers in the foreground are made of human hair. Such hairwork survives time and decay, preserving a physical part of a loved one. Taken from a sitter or the deceased, hair is cut to different lengths, mixed with an adhesive, and applied to the ivory surface. The individual who commissioned this scene could have looked at an emblem book, such as Garnet Terry’s Book of New & Allegorical Devices, to help select the mourning imagery.
Geography: 
Made in United States
Status: 
Not on view
Culture: 
American
Period: 
19th century
Classification: 
Miniatures - Jewelry
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.