Art/ Collection/ Art Object

The Artist's Family

Pierre Henri (Paris ca. 1760–1822 New York)
ca. 1800
Watercolor on ivory
2 3/4 x 3 3/8 in. (7 x 8.6 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Martha J. Fleischman Gift, in memory of Keren-Or Bernbaum, 2000
Accession Number:
Not on view
Among the most highly skilled of the many French miniaturists in America, the Paris-born Henri arrived in New York in 1788 and placed a notice in the New York Daily Advertiser: "A Miniature Painter Lately arrived from France … draws Likenesses … at the lowest price, and engages the painting to be equal to any in Europe." Between 1789 and 1820, he took commissions in Alexandria and Richmond, Charleston, Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, and New Orleans, painting portraits "from the size of a small ring to that of the largest locket."

Henri's unusual family portrait had long been known to the Museum through a reproduction in an early twentieth-century genealogical pamphlet about the artist's descendants, and had been singled out as a work that would epitomize his talents for the collection. The features of the subjects are strongly delineated, with large round eyes, slightly curling lips, pale skin tones, and hair rendered in his characteristically decorative hatchwork. The artist has included himself in the composition in a large locket worn by his wife.
Inscription: [on reverse, on fragment of old backing paper, lower left]: the property of (in handwritten script) MR. JOHN W. TOWNSEND / 825 Montgomery Avenu[e] / Bryn Maw[r] (printed on label)
[on reverse, on fragment of old backing paper, lower right]: wnsend / gomery Ave / Mawr Pa (in handwritten script)
The artist; to his daughter, Henrietta M. Troth (Mrs. Edward Y. Townsend); to her son, John W. Townsend, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania; to his son, John W. Townsend Jr., Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania; with Jeffrey Tillou, Litchfield, Connecticut, by 1996; with Earl Vandekar, New York, 1996–97; to vendors, 1997–99.
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