Core Holdings of the Tormey-Holder Collection: Christopher Martin Greiner
Jacksonian Era Gentleman Identified as Mr. Harrington
by Christopher Martin Greiner (1809-1885)
1 5/8 x 2 1/8 inches (sight)
watercolor on ivory; housed in a gilt metal pendant frame with a cast foliate rim
Unsigned, this portrait is believed to date to the period of 1837-1840, when Greiner was employed by George Washington Reed. Later portraits by Greiner typically bear the artist's signature.
A small, handwritten note (3 1/2 x 1 1/2 inches, written circa 1900-1910) that, at the time of purchase for the Tormey-Holder Collection, accompanied the Greiner miniature portrait of Mr. Harrington. Clearly written by a descendant of the subject in the portrait, the note identifies the depicted gentleman as being his/her "Grandpa Harrington".
About the Artist: There has been much confusion over the years about the origins and history of Christopher Martin Greiner. He is mistakenly referred to by some as Christian Greiner; and, universally, he is mistakenly said to have died in 1864 (he actually died 21 years later, in 1885). Research reveals that Christopher Greiner was born in 1809, in the German city of Stuttgart, in what was then the Kingdom of Württemberg. In 1835, at the age of 26, he emigrated to America with his his extended family (which included his older brother Ludwig, the toymaker of early American fame most remembered for his creation of the "Greiner Doll"), and settled in Philadelphia. The first evidence of his work as a painter in Philadelphia dates to 1837, when he was employed as a miniature painter by George Washington Reed, a Philadelphia silversmith, jeweler and watchmaker who hired Greiner to paint miniature portraits for his well-to-do customers. Within four years, however, he had branched out on his own, as evidenced by advertisements in Philadelphia newspapers from November 1841 that bore Greiner's name alone. Though most well known for his miniature portraits in watercolor on ivory, he also painted full-sized portraits in oil on canvas as well as portraits and decorative scenes in enamel on porcelain. He exhibited at the Franklin Institute in 1842 and 1843. He last advertised in Philadelphia newspapers in 1849, but is known to have remained active as a painter, until at least 1864. He died in Philadelphia on July 21, 1885, at the age of 76. Known to have works in the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington, D.C.), and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia). Listed by Blättel (pages 412, 413), Bolton (page 76) and Fielding (page 373).