Gillespie, J H - portraits of Alexander H Niven and a member of the Biddle family

Although one of these two American miniature portraits is signed on the left Alexander H Niven, the name is believed to be that of the sitter, not of the artist.

The similarity of style is apparent for both miniatures, with the sitter in profile and distinctively coloured shrubbery on both the left and right.

Both portraits have been attributed to J H Gillespie who initially painted silhouettes in London, England from 1793 to the 1820's, but was then active on the East Coast of North America, including Halifax, Baltimore, New York, and Philadelphia around 1829-1838.

Gillespie tended to paint profile portraits in this style. For examples of several other works by Gillespie see
J. H. Gillespie on artnet

The frame of the Niven portrait dates to around 1835. This sitter is thought to be Alexander Hamilton Niven of New York who was born 31 Jan 1817 in Monticello, NY. He married Ann Wood (?-1884 ) on 1 Nov 1840 and had a number of children. Based upon a frame date of 1835, he would have been aged 18 in the portrait.

His father was Daniel Grossman Niven (born MacNiven in Scotland) who lived to be over 100 years old.

The second miniature is inscribed on the backing paper, "8-11-75 Boalsburgh, Pa. Reportedly from a Philadelphia carriage house, supposedly of the Biddle family. Q = Nicholas Biddle?".

Presumably this information came from the descendant who decided to sell the miniature. Taking this provenance at face value, in the absence of any reason not to do so, it seems the miniature is of a member of the Biddle family, possibly Nicholas Biddle. 1206, 1229

1 comment:

Unknown said...

First off, thanks for this lovely blog! Alexander Hamilton Niven is my maternal great great grandfather, so I was very happy and surprised when I came accros ths posting, particularly because he's a bit of an enigma! I'm curious if you might know where the miniature is now. Again, thanks for your work and happy holidays. Barry Balchun (bbalchun@gmail.com)