Minor foxing and/or wear to a few portraits, small pink stain in lower margin of Frances Cadwalader Erskine portrait, not affecting image, but most portraits in fine or near fine condition. 20th-century red morocco hinged pull-off case, cover stamped and lettered in gilt; case lightly worn at edges and front hinge neatly separated.
An extraordinary collection of neoclassical profile portraits drawn and engraved by famed French-American portraitist Charles B.J.F. de Saint-Mémin. Forty-one prominent Americans of the Federal period are represented including such major figures as George Clinton, William Bradford, Col. William Duane, and Thomas Jefferson, who sat for the artist in 1804.
Charles Balthazar Julien Févret de Saint-Mémin was a young, aristocratic military officer when he fled France during the Revolution in 1790. In 1793 he arrived in New York with his father and soon began pursuing a career in the arts. Applying early training he had received in drawing and an eye for precision, Saint-Mémin quickly taught himself the techniques of engraving and printing, and began producing plans and landscapes of New York. In 1796 he co-founded a business creating profile portraits with the aid of a physiognotrace, a recently invented drafting device that allowed portraitists to capture their sitters' profiles with extreme accuracy. After tracing a subject's profile with the physiognotrace, Saint-Mémin would complete a portrait in chalk, reduce and copy it to a copper plate using a pantograph, and finally engrave the plate and produce a series of prints. Each patron would receive the original drawing, the plate, and, typically, a dozen engravings. Saint-Mémin's business was wildly successful, and for fourteen years it sustained him as he traveled through the eastern United States.
The portraits in the present collection are as follows, listed with Miles' catalogue number accompanying each sitter's name: William Barton (42), William Bradford (78), Claude Amable Brasier (81), Jacob Burnet (111), Martha Round Caldwell (127), Mary M. Caldwell (128), George Clinton (174), John Coles III (189), Henry Alexander Scammell Dearborn (230), Asbury Dickins (268), William Drayton (275), William Duane (277; two prints: 1802 and after 1808 [with caption, "Col. Wm. Duane"]), Louisa DuPonceau (288), Peter Stephen DuPonceau (289), Catherine M. Dutilh (291), Stephen (Étienne) Dutilh (294), David Montagu Erskine (306), Frances Cadwalader Erskine (307), Walter Franklin (334), Theodore Hunt (429), Thomas Jefferson (446), John Lincklaen (510), James McHenry (539), Neil MacNeal (547), John Mayo II (568), Maria Sophia Kemper Morton (595), Joseph Hopper Nicholson (619), Davis Old (627), Thomas Parke (642), Nathan Read (686), John Reynolds (691), Thomas Bolling Robertson (701), Charles Sterett (788; three copies), St. George Tucker (840), Waggaman (911), Samuel Purviance Walker (915), William Augustine Washington III (924), and William Hill Wells (937).
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