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American Paintings and Sculpture
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Artist: Walter Robertson, American, born Ireland, ca. 1750–1802

Dr. Alexander Gray (Scotland, 1751–1807)

ca. 1797

Watercolor on ivory

2 13/16 × 2 5/16 in. (7.1 × 5.9 cm)
Gift of Davida Tenenbaum Deutsch and Alvin Deutsch, LL.B. 1958, in honor of Kathleen Luhrs
2006.225.15

The story behind this miniature reveals the fluidity with which the British-American style of miniature painting traveled, along with culture and commerce, at the turn of the century. Irish miniaturist Walter Robertson forged a friendship with the famous American easel painter Gilbert Stuart in London and came with him to New York in 1793. Robertson moved to Philadelphia, the nation’s capital, and established a practice serving the political and mercantile elite. He translated Stuart’s feathery brushwork into watercolor on ivory. His miniatures grew in assurance by the time he left the United States in 1796. Made shortly after his arrival in India, this portrait exemplifies the height of his achievement. Robertson’s Scottish sitter, Dr. Alexander Gray, spent some twenty years in Bengal as a surgeon for the East India Company. He amassed a fortune, much of which he bequeathed to a hospital for the poor in his hometown of Elgin. This portrait, set in a locket with a loop of hair adorning the decorative reverse, may have been a love token for the much younger woman Gray married— and soon divorced—or for his sister, his only remaining family back home.

Geography: 
Possibly made in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Status: 
Not on view
Culture: 
British
Period: 
18th century
Classification: 
Miniatures - Jewelry
Provenance: 

Ed Paine; Davida Tenenbaum Deustch and Alvin Deutsch

Bibliography: 

“Acquisitions, July 1, 2006–June 30, 2007,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2007): 191, ill.

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.