American Paintings and Sculpture
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Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
PrevNext2 of 2
Photo credit: Yale University Art Gallery
Artist: Edward Greene Malbone, American, 1777–1807
After portrait by: John Trumbull, American, 1756–1843

Thomas Russell (1740–1796)


Watercolor on ivory

2 5/8 × 2 in. (6.7 × 5.1 cm)
Lelia A. and John Hill Morgan, B.A. 1893, LL.B. 1896, M.A. (Hon.) 1929, Collection

Edward Greene Malbone’s premature death at age twenty-nine cut short the brilliant career of a painter considered to be America’s most accomplished miniaturist. Primarily self-taught, his talent, charm, and artistic skill contributed to his rapid success as an itinerant artist. In 1796, Malbone recorded several posthumous portrait miniatures of Thomas Russell, such as this one, for family members who wished to preserve the sitter’s memory. Russell died almost three months before Malbone arrived in Boston; therefore, the miniaturist copied Russell’s likeness from an earlier oil painting by John Trumbull. The reverse of the portrait’s original housing features a blue glass oval and a piece of convex glass, with an inset containing a lock of the sitter’s hair.

The Boston-born Russell, owner of an extensive shipping and marine insurance business, made a fortune speculating in Continental money. He married three times and had seven children, including a daughter, Sarah (1948.259), whom Malbone also painted. In 1801 Malbone traveled to London, where he was influenced by the airy and elegant style of miniaturist Richard Cosway. Later that year he returned to Charleston, South Carolina, and began his most prolific period, traveling between Newport, Rhode Island, and Boston; Providence, Rhode Island; New York; Philadelphia; and Charleston. Malbone died of tuberculosis in May 1807.

Possibly made in Charleston, South Carolina, United States
Not on view
19th century
Miniatures - Jewelry

Robin Jaffee Frank and Katherine G. Eirk, “Miniatures under the Microscope,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (1999): 64, fig. 2.

Princeton University Art Museum, Record Princeton University Art Museum, 70 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University, 2011), 66, fig. 14.

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.