This miniature is from a series of eight portraits arranged as two bracelets (26.168.63–70). The catch of one bracelet is marked ET once; that of the other is marked ET twice. This mark was used in France after 1838 for gold articles of foreign manufacture. The bracelets were received at the Museum as works of the French school of the eighteenth century. It was reasonable to suppose that the miniatures represent members of the same family and on the basis of costume they were thought likely to date between 1785 and 1800. The arrangement was not the original one, since the French mounts were made some forty years later. Richard Allen first proposed that the miniatures might be German, which is very likely given Bodo Hofstetter's recent identification of two of the sitters as Anton (1755–1836) and Maximilian (1759–1838), younger brothers of Frederick Augustus (1750–1827), elector and from 1806 king of Saxony.
Anton is probably represented with his second wife Maria Therese of Hapsburg (1767–1827), whom he married in 1787 (26.168.64). Between 1795 and 1799 the couple's four children died at birth or in early childhood. Maximilian married in 1792 as his first wife Caroline Maria Therese of Parma (1770–1804). Their three sons and four daughters were born between 1794 and 1803; among these seven children are probably the four (26.168.65, 66, 69, 70) represented here. The identification of Caroline of Parma (26.168.68) is the most certain as the miniature is based on her wedding portrait of 1792 by Anton Graff (Schloss Pilnitz, Dresden), where she has the same brown eyes and wears the same diamond tiara and diamond bowknot pin. For this and other related works by Graff, see Julius Vogel, Anton Graff, Leipzig, 1898, pp. 23–25, fig. 9, pls. 5–7, and Richard Muther, Anton Graff, Leipzig, 1881, pp. 74, 76, 77.
Given the discrepancy in scale and style between the male portraits and the others, the miniatures may have been painted over several years by more than one artist. It is possible that the couples are not correctly paired, as Anton had blue eyes (26.168.67) and Maximilian (26.168.63) had gray eyes; the two wore the same orders and decorations. The children cannot be specifically identified.
[2016; adapted from Reynolds and Baetjer 1996]
Collis P. Huntington, New York (by 1897–d. 1900; life interest to his widow, Arabella D. Huntington, later [from 1913] Mrs. Henry E. Huntington, 1900–d. 1924; life interest to their son, Archer Milton Huntington, 1924–terminated in 1926)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Eighteenth-Century Woman," December 12, 1981–September 5, 1982, unnumbered cat. (p. 60, with MMA 26.168.63–65, as "Portraits of a Lady, a Gentleman, and Two Children," French, about 1785).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "European Miniatures in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," November 5, 1996–January 5, 1997, no. 277 (with MMA 26.168.63–65 and 26.168.67–70, as "Set of Eight Portraits Arranged as Two Bracelets").
A Catalogue of Miniatures in the Collection of Collis P. Huntington. [New York], 1897, ill. on title page.
Bodo Hofstetter. Letter to Katharine Baetjer. June 19, 1995, states that the eight miniatures depict two brothers of Elector Frederick Augustus III of Saxony and their families; identifies 26.168.63 as Anthony [Anton] and 26.168.64 as either his first wife, Charlotte of Savoy, or second wife, Maria Therese of Hapsburg; identifies 26.168.67 as Maximilian, 26.168.68 as his first wife, Caroline Maria Therese of Parma, and the four young sitters as their children.
Graham Reynolds with the assistance of Katharine Baetjer. European Miniatures in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1996, pp. 194, 196, no. 277, ill. p. 195, date the eight miniatures (MMA 26.168.63–70) about 1790–1800, stating that their arrangement is not the original one, since the French mounts were made some forty years later, and that the couples might be incorrectly paired; believe that Anton (probably 26.168.67) is most likely depicted with his second wife, Maria Therese of Hapsburg (26.168.64); agree with Richard Allen's suggestion that the miniatures might be German, and state that they may have been painted over several years by more than one artist.