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Isaiah Thomas Miniatures


Isaiah Thomas Miniatures




ISAIAH THOMAS (1749-1831), 1805
William M. S. Doyle (1769-1828)
watercolor on ivory
2 3/4 x 2 13/16 (6.9850 x 7.1437)
partial signature at l.l.: '...yle/..5'
Gift of Isaac Rand Thomas, 1947
Weis #123
Hewes #127

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ISAIAH THOMAS (1749-1831), c. 1840
after William M. S. Doyle (1769-1828)
watercolor on ivory
2 1/2 x 2 (7.7788 x 5.0800)
partial inscription l. l.: '...MONT'
Gift of Margaret D. Sloane, 1945
Weis #120
Hewes #128

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Isaiah Thomas Miniatures


This miniature (#127) of Isaiah Thomas may be the portrait for which he recorded sitting on November 25 and 27, 1805.(4) A receipt for a deposit paid to the Boston miniaturist William M. S. Doyle is preserved in Thomas's business papers and states: 'Boston, Nov. 10, 1805/Rec'd of Isaiah Thomas, the sum of Twenty-five Dollars in part payment for miniatures amounting to Fifty Dollars, Wm. M. S. Doyle.'(5) An 1805 advertisement placed by the artist in the New England Palladium stated that he charged between twelve and twenty dollars for painted miniatures, so a fee of fifty dollars charged to Thomas indicates that multiple images were produced.(6) It is unclear from the receipt if Doyle painted other members of the Thomas family at this time, or if he painted several versions of Thomas's own portrait.

Doyle began working as a miniature painter and silhouette cutter in Boston around 1803. He set up his studio in the Columbian Museum, operated by Daniel Bowen (c. 1760-1856). In 1806 Doyle joined Bowen as a proprietor of the museum, which included paintings of prominent Americans, wax sculptures, and natural history specimens.(7) While operating the museum, Doyle continued to produce dozens of pastel portraits, silhouettes, and watercolor miniatures of Boston area residents.(8) This portrait of Isaiah Thomas is one of his earlier attempts.

The American Antiquarian Society also owns a nineteenth-century copy of this miniature. Its earliest ownership is unknown, but as Thomas's granddaughters Clara Elizabeth and Mary Thomas Randall once owned the miniature, a family member may have commissioned the copy after Thomas's death. The signature, partially obscured by the domed case in which the miniature is mounted, suggests the likeness may have been made by the Scottish artist Daniel Lamont (fl. 1837-50), an itinerant miniature painter working in New England in the late 1830s.(9) In the 1840s he exhibited two miniatures at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art in Philadelphia and, after 1846, he lived in New York City.(10)


1)   Charles L. Nichols, Portraits of Isaiah Thomas (Worcester: American Antiquarian Society, 1921), 13-14, no. 10.

2)   Charles L. Nichols, Portraits of Isaiah Thomas, (Worcester: American Antiquarian Society, 1921), 13; and Clarence S. Brigham, 'Notes on the Thomas Family Portraits,' Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 56 (April 1946): 50-51. Former owner William Sloane had the miniature mounted in a new case.

3)   Nichols, Portraits of Isaiah Thomas, 13. The author incorrectly believed that this portrait was the image engraved by William R. Jones in the November 1811 Freemason's Magazine. That engraving was based on the Thomas miniature signed by Doyle (cat. #127).

4)   Isaiah Thomas Diary, November 25, 1805, Isaiah Thomas Papers 1748-1874, American Antiquarian Society. Thomas noted: "Sat for minae." In the next entry, for November 27, Thomas used a ditto mark indicating that he sat again for the artist.

5)   Isaiah Thomas Receipt Books 1802-1819, vol.18, p. 48, Isaiah Thomas Papers. A second receipt from the following summer continues the account, 'Boston, July Nineteenth 1806. Rec'd of Isaiah Thomas, Thirty-five Dollars, on account of Miniatures, etc., Wm. M. S. Doyle.' Isaiah Thomas Receipt Books 1802-1819, vol. 18, p. 54.

6)   New England Palladium, December 17, 1805.

7)   In 1825 the Columbian Museum collection was purchased by the artist Ethan Allen Greenwood, see Georgia Brady Barnhill, 'Extracts from the Journals of Ethan Allen Greenwood: Portrait Painter and Museum Proprietor,' Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 103 (April 1993): 91-178.

8)   Arthur B. and Sybil B. Kern, 'The Pastel Portraits of William B. Doyle,' The Clarion 13 (Fall 1988): 41-47.

9)   'D. G. LAMONT, MINIATURE PAINTER. The same Artist from Edinburgh who met with such success here about two years ago, will remain for about two or three weeks, and positively no longer, as he is preparing to go south. MINIATURES on ivory from $5 to $30 and upwards, and in all cases warranted strikingly correct.'. New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette (Concord), August 19, 1839, 3. Little is known about Lamont's accomplishments as a miniaturist

10)   George C. Groce & David H. Wallace, The New-York Historical Society's Dictionary of Artists in America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957), 382.


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