Hore Browse Trist (1775–1804) Artist: Jean Pierre Henri Elouis (French, 1755–1840)

probably 1798/99

American Paintings and Sculpture

Not on view

The son of British soldier Nicholas Trist and American Quaker Elizabeth House, Hore Browse Trist was born in Philadelphia. The same year, the boy's father traveled to Louisiana, where he received a land grant. Tragically, he died in 1784 while his wife was journeying to meet him after nine years of separation. Elizabeth returned to Philadelphia and raised her son with the assistance of Thomas Jefferson, a family friend. Under his encouragement, Trist graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and became a gentleman, polishing his social skills and education in England.


The young man commissioned this miniature of himself for Mary Brown, whom he married in April 1799. Financial difficulties forced him to leave his wife and two young sons at their home near Jefferson's estate, Monticello, in Virginia. He traveled to Louisiana to assume the post of customs collector, arranged for him by Jefferson. This miniature's romantic mood anticipates the tone of the young couple's letters written over several years of separation. In response to a long-awaited letter from his wife, Trist confides, "It came by the Express Mail yesterday & was so much like yourself that the sensations it excited left an indelible impression not only of your amiability, but of your very looks & person in miniature on my heart." His metaphor reflects his understanding of the miniature as his era's most powerful emblem of love.


The family was finally reunited in New Orleans in early 1804, but on August 29, Trist died of yellow fever. His mother informed her "dear friend" Jefferson, "My Son, my support, my protector, my all in life, was wrested from me." As a precious token in both life and death, the portrait of Trist encapsulates the dramas of love and loss that made miniatures so cherished. The story behind this portrait makes palpable the need for miniatures at a time when menstatesmen, merchants, salesmen, soldiers, and itinerant miniaturistsoften left home for long periods to pursue careers that might offer their families financial security.


Rather than adopting the opaque style preferred by most Continental artists, Frenchman Jean Pierre Henri Elouis chose to paint in the translucent British mode. Elouis may have brought or ordered his cases from France, for the rose-gold over copper locket with three-color enamel encircling the portrait appears Continental. That decorative sensibility also informs the refined reverse, where braided brown hair, set in the glass-covered aperture, is overlaid with the sitter's initials formed in script from graduated seed pearls. Whether painted by immigrants or native-born artists, the graceful aesthetics of Federal-era portraits, and the high level of private embellishment on the reverse, reflect a growing American romanticism.

Medium

Watercolor on ivory

Dimensions

3 1/8 × 2 1/2 in. (7.9 × 6.4 cm)

Credit Line

Mabel Brady Garvan Collection

Accession Number

1936.303

Culture
Period

18th century

Classification
Disclaimer

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.

Provenance

Provenance

Mrs. Daniel J. McCarthy (Elizabeth White), Philadelphia, by 1926-1936; Edmund Bury, Philadelphia, 1936; to Yale University Art Gallery, by purchase.
Bibliography
  • Robin Jaffee Frank, Love and Loss: American Portrait and Mourning Miniatures (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2000), 164–66, 169, 324nn11-13, 18, ill
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

lockets, miniatures (paintings), portraits

Subject

men

Signed

Signed l.l.: "Elouis"

Technical metadata and APIs

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Open in Mirador

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