Thomas Seir Cummings (American, 18041894)
Watercolor on ivory; L. 17 1/2 in. (44.5 cm)
Gift of Mrs. Richard B. Hartshorne and Miss Fanny S. Cummings (through Miss Estelle Hartshorne), 1928 (28.148.1)
A precise and perceptive painter, Cummings was an expert draftsman before translating his talents into miniature painting. Beginning in 1831, he taught miniature painting and drawing at the National Academy of Design, where he had been a founder and was the treasurer (182765). In 1822, while studying under Henry Inman, Cummings married Jane Cook. Their first child, Charles, was born the next year and eight children later, in about 1841, Cummings embarked on a project to record his children's faces in miniature and present the nine ivory ovals in the form of a necklace to his wife. He may have seen prototypes for his project in Italian micro mosaic; no other group of miniatures combined in this way is known. As portrayed, the children range in age from one to sixteen; the firstborn Charles died in 1831 and is posthumously represented in the smallest oval at center. The other children are identified as follows, left to right: Sarah A. (18401919), Charles P. (18331879), Jane E. (18311903), Rebecca C. (18271859), Thomas A. (18251859), Henry R. (18291873), George F. (18351910), Lydia M. (18371927). Cummings exhibited the necklace at the National Academy of Design in 1841, where the critic for the New York Express deemed it "a very good idea," and at the Artist's Fund Society, Philadelphia, in 1842. The Cummings went on to have five more children.