American Artist: Joseph Dunckerley
Late Eighteenth Century English Gentleman,
Painted in the British West Indies
by Joseph Dunckerley (1752-1806)
1 7/8 x 2 1/4 inches
watercolor on ivory; housed in an elaborate gold brooch frame with
a blue enamel surround, a border of 79 pearls and detailed engraving to the reverse
Exhibited with The Comerford Collection, May - September, 2009, at the Irish Architectural Archive, Dublin, Ireland
This miniature had long been mis-attributed as simply "Irish School". It is unmistakably by the hand of Joseph Dunckerley, however; and it is a superb example of his later works, painted during his time in Falmouth, Jamaica (making it another meaningful addition to the Tormey-Holder Collection). That the miniature was ultimately found in the United Kingdom supports the belief that it was painted during Dunckerley's Jamaican period, as most miniatures painted in Jamaica tended to migrate back to Great Britain with their owners, especially after slave rebellions began in the region in the 1790s. Given the miniature's highly elaborate and expensive framing, one imagines that its subject was either a wealthy plantation owner or a wealthy merchant visiting the British West Indies.
About the Artist: Joseph Dunckerley (alternatively spelled as Dunkerley or Dunkerly in some sources) was born in London in 1785, the son and grandson of London jewelers. He arrived to Boston, Massachusetts in 1774 with the 38th Regiment of Foot, a British Army infantry regiment, in which he served as a private. Deserted the British Army in January, 1776. In May 1776, he joined the Massachusetts Company of Artillery, in which he served as a 2nd lieutenant. In March, 1777, he was commissioned in service of George Washington's Continental Army as a 2nd lieutenant and adjutant. In May, 1778, he resigned his commission in the Continental Army and settled in Boston, where he commenced painting miniature portraits professionally. In 1787, he departed Boston and relocated to Jamaica, then a British colony. In Jamaica, he initially settled in Falmouth, where he painted miniatures. By 1794, however, he migrated to Kingston, where he was actively involved with Freemasonry. In 1796, during a period of unrest and uprisings, he joined the Jamaica Militia, serving as a lieutenant and adjutant in the St. Andrew's Regiment. Listed by Barratt and Zabar (page 91), Blättel (pages 314, 315), Bolton (page 38), Bolton & Wehle (pages 79, 80), Fielding (page 257), Johnson (page 115), and Schidlof (page 225).
Other portraits in the Tormey-Holder Collection by Joseph Dunckerley
(click photo for larger view and additional information):
Early American Boston Lady Wearing a Bonnet
James Dunckerley (1728-1802),
a Jeweler in Georgian Era London, and the Father of the Artist