Artist / Maker
Painted by Charles Lepec (1830-90)
Frame attributed to Placido Zuloaga (1834-1910)
Enamel on copper, with damascened iron frame, gilt-metal clasp and velvet mount, with gilt-wood frame
15 cm (high)
French (Paris), December 1866
The frame, Spanish, circa 1867
Inscribed, signed and dated
Alfred Morrison (1821-97), Fonthill Manor, and by descent; […]; Rowely’s Fine Art Auctioneers, Newmarket, 5 September 2017, lot 87
Paris Exposition Universelle, 1867: ‘1 portrait de Madame Morrison’ (lent by Alfred Morrison
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2018.74 (Gift of Olivier Hurstel and Martin Levy)
Olivier Hurstel and Martin Levy, ‘The Apotheosis of Charles Lepec: his participation at the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1867’, Decorative Arts Society Journal, 41 (2017), pp. 34-49, p. 41. n. 48
At the time of writing the article cited above, the miniature had not yet been seen by the authors.
However they were alerted by the auctioneer’s description which reads: ‘A 19th century French miniature, possibly on shell painted with the side profile of a young lady wearing a gilt braided blue headdress, mounted in a yellow metal inlaid polished steel frame with further velvet lined backing frame, the reverse inscribed N306 Mr [sic] M Morrison Par Charles Lepec Paris Dec 1866. 15 cm high’.
In a letter written from Paris and dated 13 December 1866 (Fonthill House Archive), Lepec writes to Morrison: ‘J’ai terminé hier le portrait de Madame Morrison et je vous l’envoie aujourd’hui par l’intermédiaire de Mr Phillips … / Je suis très inquiet de connaitre [sic] votre appréciation … / Voici mon opinion: comme objet d’art, c’est certainement très réussi, et comme veerité de coloration, c’est un excellent résultat: mais je voudrais avoir votre opinion bien franche … quant à la resemblance …’.
On 10 January 1867 Lepec wrote a receipt, on Fonthill House notepaper, for £100 ‘pour portrait le de Madame Morrison’ (Fonthill House Archive).
The authors are confident that this recently identified portrait, apparently contained within a frame by Placido Zuolaga, is the one supplied to Morrison, although a second portrait was prepared at the same time for Mabel’s father, the Reverend Chermside (Hurstel and Levy, ‘Charles Lepec and the Patronage of Charles Morrison, Metropolitan Museum of Art Journal 50 (2015), pp. 194-223, p. 208 and n. 118).
Further investigation may establish that Robert Phillips of Cockspur Street, Morrison’s favoured agent, may have been responsible for the gilt-metal clasp between the enamel and the frame.