Loan Object
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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: Archibald Robertson, American, born Scotland, 1765–1835


ca. 1795

Watercolor on ivory

2 3/16 × 1 11/16 in. (5.6 × 4.3 cm)
Promised bequest of Davida Tenenbaum Deutsch and Alvin Deutsch, LL.B. 1958, in honor of Kathleen Luhrs

The identity of this young man is unknown, but he may have been a New Yorker, given that Archibald Robertson was painting and teaching art in New York City in the years around 1795. This miniature was likely commissioned out of love and presented to the sitter’s fiancée or wife as a token of his affection. The two may have exchanged miniatures in order for him to keep a portrait of his beloved. This amorous custom of the time suggests that a mate may exist, possibly painted by the same artist. This miniature of a dandified gentleman illustrates Robertson’s characteristic style: an elongated head modeled with short hatchings through which the ivory glows, in contrast to the smoother, more opaquely painted clothing.

Archibald Robertson was the eldest of three brothers, all artists, born to architect William Robertson and his wife, Jean. Archibald and his brother Alexander were among the most influential miniaturists to immigrate to the United States, while his other brother Andrew built a successful career in Aberdeen, Scotland, and London. After studying fine art in Scotland and then in London at the Royal Academy, Archibald became a teacher, coming to the America in 1791 and establishing the Columbian Academy of Painting in New York City with Alexander. He was commissioned to paint miniatures of George and Martha Washington shortly after his arrival in the United States, and in 1802 he published the influential art manual Elements of Graphic Arts.

Made in New York City, New York, United States
Not on view
18th century
Miniatures - Jewelry

Avis and Rocky Gardiner; Ed Paine; Davida Tenenbaum Deutsch and Alvin Deutsch

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.