American Artist: John Wood Dodge
William Richard Thomas Chaplain (1811-1840),
Painted Posthumously after a Full-Sized Portrait
in Oil on Canvas, Painted between 1837 and 1840, by
Jacques Guillaume Lucien Amans
by John Wood Dodge (1807-1893)
2 x 2 3/4 inches (sight); frame measures 4 1/4 x 5 1/4 inches
watercolor on ivory; housed in a wooden frame with a gilded metal mat
*backing paper to the reverse of the portrait is inscribed in graphite:
"Painted by / John W. Dodge / Feb'y 1850 / Natchez Miss."
The subject appears to be wearing the uniform of a junior officer of the U.S. Navy.
A view of the portrait outside its case, allowing its colors and
brush strokes to be seen more clearly without the distortion or
reflection typically caused by the glass lens of a miniature's case
(Click + symbol above for an enlarged view)
When this portrait miniature was purchased for the collection, the identity of the subject was not known. It was assumed that he was one of three gentlemen that James Wood Dodge had recorded in his account book as having painted portraits for in February of 1850: James Metcalf, David Ker, or Mr. Ernest. Later, a fellow collector kindly shared that he found a record of the miniature in the Frick Art Reference Library Photoarchive. There, the subject was identified as William Chaplain, who was born on June 11, 1811, and died on September 18, 1840 (ten years before his portrait was painted by Dodge). The Frick record further noted that the miniature was painted after another work by an unknown artist.
Further research later uncovered the original work the miniature was copied from: a full-sized (24.25 x 29.25 inches) portrait in oil on canvas, painted between 1837 and 1840 by Jacques Guillaume Lucien Amans (1801-1888; a French painter who arrived in 1837 to New Orleans, Louisiana, where he became on of the most prominent portraitists of the period in that city). A copy of Amans' original appears below.
A photo of the original portrait by Jacques Guillaume Lucien Amans
that was copied by John Wood Dodge when he painted Chaplain's miniature in 1850.
The larger oil on canvas painting (which was in dire need of cleaning and conservation
when photographed) was sold at auction in 2009 by
New Orleans Auction Galleries,
New Orleans, Louisiana.
(Photo courtesy New Orleans Auction Galleries.)
Additional records in the Frick Art Reference Library reveal that Dodge also painted portraits of Chaplain's younger brother, Edward Kemp Chaplain (1814-1853), and Edward's wife, Amenaide Chotard Chaplain (1822-1895). Inscriptions to the reverse of those miniatures indicate they were painted by Dodge in Natchez, Mississippi on June 9, 1849. It is logical to assume that it was Edward who commissioned Dodge to paint a copy of his late brother's portrait in miniature. The larger portrait by Amans was likely in the possession of William's widow, Anne Murdock Chaplain (dates of birth and death unknown).
Records of the Tenth Presbyterian Church*, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, reveal that, on September 17, 1840, William R. T. Chaplain, then of Port Gibson, Mississippi married Ann Murdoch of Philadelphia. The minister additionally inscribed the following note in the marriage register: "By sudden and awful visitation of Providence, Mr. Chaplain was called into eternity the next day after his marriage. He died in Baltimore on the afternoon of the 18th, of apoplexy and paralysis." He was only 29 years old at the time of his death.
(*Church Registers; Presbyterian Historical Society, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Presbyterian Church Records, 1701-1907; Accession Number: Vault BX 9211.P49103 T422.)
Other portraits in the Tormey-Holder Collection by John Wood Dodge
(click photo for larger view and additional information):
Jacksonian Era Gentleman
Jacksonian Era Lady
Wearing Coral Jewelry