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American Paintings and Sculpture
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Artist: William M. S. Doyle, American, 1769–1828

Jacob Porter (1783-1846), B.A. 1803, M.A. 1806


Watercolor on ivory

3 3/8 × 2 3/4 in. (8.6 × 7 cm)
Gift of Jacob Porter, B.A. 1803, M.A. 1806

By the early nineteenth century, the average portrait miniature was about three inches high. This portrait of the earnest Jacob Porter, typical for the era, is rendered on an ivory oval with a neutral background. Porter spent most of his life in Plainfield, Massachusetts, working as a physician and studying botany, mineralogy, and literature. He published numerous scientific articles, as well as poems and translations of religious texts from French and Spanish. Porter’s friend, the writer and poet William Cullen Bryant, dedicated two poems to him, one to mark his marriage to Betsey Mayhew in the spring of 1813, and the second to mourn her premature death a few months later.

Artist William M. S. Doyle emerged as a miniaturist from the tradition of the American craftsman. Originally a wallpaper manufacturer, he began to paint miniatures while continuing to make pastels, silhouettes, and death masks. Ever the entrepreneur, he also served as coproprietor of Boston’s Columbian Museum, a popular venue for the eclectic display of natural-history curiosities, wax figures, and art. Although Doyle sold the museum’s collections in 1825, he retained a space for his portrait practice in the building. He died of consumption (tuberculosis) three years later.

Made in Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Not on view
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 such records is ongoing.