Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The proper English kitchen, when we were still the British American colonies...

Frontispiece from Martha Bradley’s “The British Housewife or, The Cook Housekeeper’s and Gardiner’s Companion 1756

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

American Colonial Era Artist Henrietta Johnston

. 1711 Henrietta Johnston (1674-1729) Henriette Charlotte de Chastaigner (Mrs Nathaniel Broughton)

Early in the 18th century, many of the portraits of colonial gentle ladies posted on this blog were done by Henrietta Johnston (1675-1729). She was the first identified pastelist & female portrait painter in the American colonies.

1705 Henrietta Johnston (1674-1729). Young Irish Girl.

At the age of 10 or 12, Henrietta de Beaulieu, fled with her Huguenot family to England from France to avoid persecution. In 1694, she married Robert Dering (1669-1702-4),the fifth son of Sir Edward Dering, and moved to Ireland. Their marriage application dated March 23, 1694, describes Henrietta as a maiden, about twenty, of the Parish of St. Martin-in-the-Fields.

1705 Henrietta Johnston (1674-1729). Unknown Dublin Lady in Grey Dress.

When she was in Ireland, two Irish artists were doing pastel portraits, Edmund Ashfield (d. 1700) & Edward Luttrell, who flourished from 1699 to 1720. Pastels were a relatively new medium at the time. It is possible that she met or even learned from these men, who may have trained in France where the pastels originated. Typical of portraits of the period, her paintings resemble in pose & format, but not medium, the work of Sir Godfrey Kneller.

1708-09 Henrietta Johnston (1674-1729). Unknown Lady.

Her earliest identified extant works are from about 1704 Ireland. She was a single mother at this time, for she remarried the following year. When her first husband Dering died, she became a widow with two daughters, one of whom, Mary, later became a lady in waiting for the daughters of George II. The pastel portraits she painted during this period were mostly of members of deceased husband’s extended family, which included the Earl of Barrymore & Sir John Percival, Earl of Egmont.

1708-10 Henrietta Johnston (1674-1729). Marianne Fleur Du Gue (Mrs Pierre Bacot)

In 1705, she wed the Reverend Mr. Gideon Johnston (1668-1716), a graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, who was the widowed vicar at Castlemore & who was to become rector appointed by the Bishop of London, of St. Philip’s Church in Charles Town, South Carolina, in 1708.

Charleston was a fledgling town at this time scrambling to become become the most affluent & largest city in the South, the leading port & trading center for the southern colonies. Many French Protestant Huguenots, seeking religious freedom, were moving to Charleston, where they began building fine townhouses along the harbor's edge & wanted portraits to grace their hallways & establish their family's presence as a power.

1708 Henrietta Johnston (1674-1729). Mary DuBose (Mrs Samuel Wragg)

Henrietta, her new husband, & 3 children from their combined family set sail for his assignment in Charleston. The story goes that on a ship stopover in the Madeira Islands, the groom went ashore, returning after the ship had already sailed for Charleston. Henrietta landed with her children in tow only to discover that the parishioners had appointed their own rector while waiting for the Bishop's appointee. There was no pulpit or parsonage for the new family.

1710 Henrietta Johnston (1674-1729). Catherine LeNoble (Mrs Robert Taylor)

When Johnston finally arrived in Charleston 12 days later, he had to oust the elected rector from his pulpit. This was not a popular move, & Gideon Johnston became bogged down in church politics. He wrote in September, 1708, that he "never repented so much of anything, my Sins only excepted, as my coming to this Place."

1710 Henrietta Johnston (1674-1729). Susanne LeNoble (Mrs Alexander de Chastaigner) (Mrs Rene Louis Ravenel).

In Charleston, the artist added to the family's coffers by drawing 9" by 12" portraits of many of Charleston’s French Huguenot residents and members of St. Philip’s Church. Frustrated by debt & problems, probably of his own making, once he arrived in South Carolina, Gideon Johnston wrote the Bishop in 1709: “Were it not for the Assistance my wife gives me by drawing of Pictures…I shou’d not have been able to live.”

1715 Henrietta Johnston (1674-1729). Mary Magdalen Gendron (Mrs Samuel Prioleu) 1691-1765

Henrietta's popularity as a portraitist grew, as his declined. She kept painting, making friends, raising his children, keeping house, & acting as his secretary. By the spring of 1711, she'd run out of art supplies, just as her husband's congregation wanted to send some important messages back to the Bishop in London by personal carrier.

1717-18 Henrietta Johnston (1674-1729). Mary Griffith (Mrs Robert Brewton) (Mrs William Loughton) 1698-1761.

Afraid that their indebted, unpopular clergyman might skip out on his local debts, the church sent Henrietta to London with the missives for the church hierarchy. The little jaunt to London took 3 years. Enough time for her to restock her art supplies with French pastels. Throughout her career she typically used 9 x 12-inch sheets of paper in simple wooden frames, which she often signed & dated on the back.

1719 Henrietta Johnston (1674-1729). Judith DuBose (Mrs Joseph Wragg) 1698-1769

On her return voyage, she was involved with some frightening pirates; and shortly after her return, the good clergyman drowned in a boating accident. She remained in Charleston, when her sons later returned to England. She & her work remained popular, even taking her to New York to paint portraits request there.

1720 Henrietta Johnston (1674-1729). Anne Broughton (Mrs John Gibbes)

Johnston’s work is usually divided into 3 periods by art historians. 1. The Irish period, when she was a widow lasted from about 1704 to 1705. 2. The period in Charleston prior to Gideon’s death (1708-1715), when she had to supplement her seemingly inept husband's ventures. 3. And the period between his death in 1716, and Henrietta’s own passing in 1729, during which she continued working in Charleston & briefly in New York in 1725.

1722 Henrietta Johnston (1674-1729). Anne DuBose (Mrs Job Rothmahler)

Nearly 40 works attributed to Johnston survive, many of these in original frames with backboards signed & dated by the artist. In addition, many of the artist’s sitters have been identified, some through original backboard inscriptions, including the fourth Earl of Barrymore, whose portrait Johnston completed in Dublin in 1704.

1725 Henrietta Johnston (1674-1729). Elizabeth Colden Mrs Peter DeLancey (1719-1784)

The extant Irish works are all waist-length portraits & show the most attention to detail of all her portraits, with well-defined facial features, lively & expressive eyes, attention to clothing, & dramatic background shading.

Henrietta Johnston (1674-1729) Anna Cuyler (Mrs. Anthony) Van Schaick, ca. 1725

Several of her Charleston portraits retain careful characteristics of her early Irish works, but most are bust-length with less detailing of clothing & facial details. Strong shadows relieved by bright touches of white suggest the sheen of satin & other fine cloth worn by her subjects. She seldom painted the hands of her sitters.

1725 Henrietta Johnston (1674-1729). Frances Moore Bayard.

In the colonies, her female subjects usually wore delicate chemises, while the male sitters were dressed in everyday clothes or, occasionally, in military armor. Her adult female colonial sitters are posed facing slightly left or right and are draped in either white or a soft gold, with white, slightly ruffled borders forming a V-shaped neckline. Their hair is generally depicted as swept up, with ringlets falling over one shoulder.

Johnston’s portraits became almost dull in the period immediately after her rector husband’s death. Her subjects’ faces lack the lively expression of her earlier works, clothing details are hazy, & colors are less saturated, suggesting that the artist was either running low on supplies, was trying to complete the portraits quickly, or was growing weary.

In the final period, Johnston’s portraits vary in the quality of detail; while some of the later works exhibit a return to her earlier skillfully executed facial & clothing details, at least one reflects the ethereal quality seen immediately after her clergyman husband’s death. Her New York portraits include the only known portraits of small children, both of which are close to 3/4 length and include the children’s arms & hands.

The only landscapes attributed to Johnston are those seen as backgrounds in these to portraits of children. Landscapes would remain in the background of American art until the end of the 18th century.

For more information, see:

Forsyth Alexander, ed. “Henrietta Johnston: Who Greatly helped…by drawing pictures.” Winston-Salem, N.C.: Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, 1991.

Middleton, Margaret Simons. Henrietta Johnston of Charles Town, South Carolina: America’s First Pastellist. Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1966.

Severens, Martha R. “Who was Henrietta Johnston?” The Magazine Antiques. (November 1995): 704-709.

American Colonial Era Artist Jeremiah Theus (1716-1774)

 Jeremiah Theus (American colonial era artist, 1716-1774) Mary Broughton (Mrs. Isaac Motte)

Jeremiah Theus was born in Chur, Switzerland; and at age 19, arrived in South Carolina with his family in 1735.

Jeremiah Theus (American colonial era artist, 1716-1774) Mrs. James Skirving (Sarah Vinson)

During this period, South Carolina's General Assembly encouraged European Protestants to settle in the colony by providing transportation funds and supplying immigrants with farm tools and a year’s stock of food. Theus's family received a 250-acre land grant on the Edisto River and a town lot.

1755 Jeremiah Theus (American colonial era artist, 1716-1774) Suzanna Moore Smyth

Jeremiah Theus (American colonial era artist, 1716-1774) Mrs. Charles Lowndes (Sarah Parker)

By 1740, Theus began serving as the area's only resident portraitist. He may have received some training in Switzerland and brought some prints with him to South Carolina.

1756 Jeremiah Theus (American colonial era artist, 1716-1774) Portrait of a Lady

Jeremiah Theus (American colonial era artist, 1716-1774) Mrs Thomas Lynch (Elizabeth Allston)

Theus referred to a somewhat limited number of English mezzotint portraits for his client's poses and costumes. He also stylized facial features of his sitters, resulting in many similar portraits.

1757 Jeremiah Theus (American colonial era artist, 1716-1774) Elizabeth Rothmahler

On August 30, 1740, Jeremiah Theüs advertised in the South-Carolina Gazette: "Notice is hereby given, that Jeremiah Theus Limner is remov’d into the Market Square near Mr. John Laurans Sadler, where all Gentlemen and Ladies may have their Pictures drawn, likewise Landskips of all Sizes, Crests, and Coats of Arms for Coaches or Chaises. Likewise for the Conveniency of those who live in the Country, he is willing to wait on them at their respective Plantations."

1757 Jeremiah Theus (American colonial era artist, 1716-1774) Elizabeth Wragg Manigault

Jeremiah Theus (American colonial era artist, 1716-1774) Elizabeth Clifford Wayne

Theus also painted landscapes and coats of arms, and by 1744, was offering an evening drawing school for "young Gentlemen and Ladies" at his house in Charleston.

1757 Jeremiah Theus (American colonial era artist, 1716-1774) Mrs Gabriel Manigault

Jeremiah Theus (American colonial era artist, 1716-1774) Elizabeth Savage Branford

His popularity is apparent in a letter written to him by James Habersham (1715–1775), who served as acting colonial governor of Georgia from 1771 to 1773. In July 1772, Habersham wrote to Theüs, "I received...all my Family Pictures, besides Mr Wylly’s, and Mrs Crookes, Coll Jones’ Grandchild, and two for Mr Clay, which are all delivered—I have also your account for my 7 Pictures, amounting to Three Hundred and twenty Pounds South Carolina Currency, which I shall order to be paid you." The artist died in Charleston in 1774.

Jeremiah Theus (American colonial era artist, 1716-1774)  Mrs. Barnard Elliott II (Mary Elizabeth Bellinger)

1760 Jeremiah Theus (American colonial era artist, 1716-1774) Mary Trusler.

Jeremiah Theus (American colonial era artist, 1716-1774)  Mrs. Martha Vinson

1761 Jeremiah Theus (American colonial era artist, 1716-1774) Polly Ouldfield of Winyah.

Jeremiah Theus (American colonial era artist, 1716-1774)  Mrs. Rawlins Lowndes (Sarah Jones)

1765 Jeremiah Theus (American colonial era artist, 1716-1774) Hannah Dart.

1765 Jeremiah Theus (American colonial era artist, 1716-1774) Mary (Mrs. James Cuthbert).

1770s Jeremiah Theus (American colonial era artist, 1716-1774) Elizabeth Vanderhorst Moore.

1770 Jeremiah Theus (American colonial era artist, 1716-1774) Mrs. Garner Greene.

1771 Jeremiah Theus (American colonial era artist, 1716-1774) Marcy Olney

Jeremiah Theus (American colonial era artist, 1716-1774) Mary Mazyck

1753 Jeremiah Theus (American colonial era artist, 1716-1774) Elizabeth Martin (Mrs. Jacob Motte

Jeremiah Theus (American colonial era artist, 1716-1774) Elizabeth Prioleau Rupell

Jeremiah Theus (American colonial era artist, 1716-1774) Portrait of a Child

1756 Jeremiah Theus (American colonial era artist, 1716-1774) Martha Logan (Mrs Lionel Chalmers)

1752-54 Jeremiah Theus (American colonial era artist, 1716-1774) Mrs. John Dart.

1765 Jeremiah Theus (American colonial era artist, 1716-1774) Anne Livingston (Mrs. John Champneys)

1758 Jeremiah Theus (American colonial era artist, 1716-1774) Susannah Holmes (1739–1771)

To see gentlemen painted by Theus, go to the American Gallery.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Many colonial women served their food in pewter vessels & used pewter utensils


In 18th-century America, most women served their meals on pewter plates, tankards, pitchers, flatware, and serving vessels.  Pewter is an alloy composed mainly of tin with various amounts of lead, copper, zinc, antimony, & bismuth. Women in early China, Egypt, Greece, & Rome also used this soft metal for serving food. Because of its low melting point & how easily it dented, experts estimate that pewter in the colonial American home lasted only 10 years.

Nonetheless, while poor colonials used wooden utensils, most who could afford it used pewter. Though pewter vessels cost only about 1/10th the price of silver, they were still fairly expensive. One dish or tankard equaled or exceeded what a skilled craftsman earned in a day.

A study of English export records by Robert W. Symonds revealed that by 1720 "the value of pewter imports from England began to exceed the combined totals of the value of silver objects, furniture, upholstery wares, including bedding, curtains, carpets, hangings, and upholstered furniture." More than 300 tons of English pewter were shipped to the American colonies annually in the 1760's.

The English monarchy tightly controlled the export of goods to the colonies through the establishment of export laws. Exactly which pewter wares were to be exported was largely controlled by the English pewter guilds. These measures ensured the English guilds a market in the New World for their products, and significantly restricted the ability of American pewter smiths to compete.

However, due to the low melting point of pewter metal, it could easily be melted down & re-cast into new forms with little loss of material. American pewtersmiths decided to collect damaged or disused pewter goods & recycle them. One common colonial practice among pewterers was to offer 1 pound of new pewterware in exchange for 3 pounds of old. In some regions, pewterers traveled from door to door in order to collect damaged vessels for repair or for recycling.

American William Will 1742-1798 Pewter Coffee Pot

William Will was born in Germany, near the Rhine river. His family came to New York City in 1752, when he was 10. His father was a pewterer, as were his brothers. He appeared in Philadelphia, with his brother Philip, in 1763. The pewter maker married there & also served as an overseer of the poor, a sheriff of Philadelphia, an officer in the army, & in the General Assembly of the state. He died there in 1798. A local newspaper reported, "On Saturday morning departed this life after a lingering indisposition, which he bore with Christian fortitude, Col Willim Will, in the 56the year of his age; a native of the city of Nieuwidt in German; and on Monday, his remains were interred in the burial ground of the German reformed congregation attended by the members of the German incorporated society, and a very large number of respectable citizens."

In colonial America during the life of William Will, artisans made pewter articles by either casting the liquid pewter into molds, which were usually made of brass or bronze; by turning on a lathe; or by hammering a flat pieces such as large dishes, trenchers, or chargers into shape. Almost all pewter prior to 1800 was cast in molds. Molds were expensive; & immigrating pewterers, such as William Will's family, usually brought their molds with them from England or Germany.

For more information see:
Davis, John D. Pewter At Colonial Williamsburg. Williamsburg, VA: The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 2003.

Ebert, Katherine. Collecting American Pewter. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1973.

Fennimore, Donald L. The Knopf Collectors' Guide to American Antiques: Silver & Pewter. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984.

Herr, Donald M. Pewter in Pennsylvania German Churches. Birdsboro, PA: The Pennsylvania German Society, 1995.

Hornsby, Peter R.G. Pewter of the Western World, 1600 - 1850. Exton, PA: Shiffer Publishing Ltd., 1983

Jacobs, Carl. Guide to American Pewter. New York: The McBride Company, 1957.

Jacobs, Celia. American Pewter Marks & Makers, A Handbook for Collectors, rev. 2d ed. Brattleboro, VT: Stephen Green Press, 1970.

Kauffman, Henry J. The American Pewterer His Techniques and His Products. Camden, New Jersey: Thomas Nelson Inc., 1970.

Kerfoot, John Barrett. American Pewter. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1924.

Laughlin, Ledlie Irwin. Pewter in America: Its Makers and Their Marks. 2 Volumes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1940; Volume 3. Barre, Massachusetts: Barre Publishers, 1971.

Montgomery, Charles F. A History of American Pewter. A Winterthur Book. New York: Praeger, 1973.

Myers, Louis G. Some Notes on American Pewterers. New York: Country Life Press, 1926.

Peal, Christopher. Pewter in Great Britain. London: John Gifford, Ltd., 1983.

Pewter Collectors' Club of America. Collecting Antique Pewter What to Look For and What to Avoid. PCCA, 2006.

Pewter Collectors' Club of America. Pewter in American Life. Providence, RI: Mowbray Company, 1984.

Thomas, John Carl. Connecticut Pewter and Pewterers. The Connecticut Historical Society: Connecticut Printers, 1976.

Thomas, John Carl, Editor. American and British Pewter. New Jersey: The Main Street Press, 1976.

 Much of the information about the general history of American pewter in this blog comes from the website of The Pewter Collectors' Club Of America, Inc.