Antique miniature portraits of the Tormey-Holder Collection



American Artist: Elkanah Tisdale



Portrait miniature by Elkanah Tisdale of Sarah Scoville née Eliot, of Albany, New York

Sarah Scoville née Eliot (Mrs. John Scoville;
1772-1852), of Albany New York

dated 1798

by Elkanah Tisdale

3/4 x 1 1/4 inches (sight)

watercolor on ivory; housed under glass in a later (circa 1850) gold locket case



A view of the portrait outside its case, allowing its colors and
brush strokes to be seen more clearly without the distortion or
reflection that is often caused by the glass lens of a miniature's case
(Click + symbol above for an enlarged view)



A view of the backing paper affixed to the reverse of Sarah Scoville's
portrait, upon which the following has been inscribed: "Sarah / Scoville /
(née Eliot) / b. Feb 28, 1772 / m. Oct 21, 1798 / d. Feb 12, 1852 /
This miniature / was painted by / Tisdale of / Albany in 1798 / and given by
J. Scoville / to Mrs. Wyllys Eliot [Sarah's mother, Abigail Eliot née Ward]".



Per handwritten notes on the reverse of Sarah's portrait (see above photo), we know that Tisdale painted her likeness in Albany, New York, in 1798. The young Elkanah Tisdale was just 27 years old in 1798, the first year he is known to have painted portrait miniatures. (He had previously worked as an engraver.)

It is supposed that Tisdale may have been inspired to paint portrait miniatures by Benjamin Trott, himself then just 28 years old. The two are known to have first become acquainted in 1798. That same year, the two painters are also known to have traveled together from New York City to Albany, fleeing an epidemic of yellow fever that was causing panic amongst New Yorkers. (Some 2,100 New York City residents died of malaria/yellow fever between July and October 1798.)

It was during his brief stay in Albany that Tisdale painted Sarah's portrait miniature. She herself was just 26 years old at the time. That same year, in October 1798, Sarah married John Scoville (1770-1816), a successful draper (seller of cloth and dry goods) and mercer (a dealer in high-end cloth, such as silk and velvet). It is not known if Tisdale painted Sarah’s portrait before or after the marriage, but we know from the handwritten notes to the reverse of the portrait that Sarah's miniature had been presented as a gift to Sarah's mother, Abigail Eliot née Ward (Mrs. Wyllys Eliot; 1731-1801).

Three decades later, by then a widow of about 15 years, Sarah sat for another early American painter: Asher Brown Durand, who painted her portrait “in large”, in oil on canvas. That portrait is in the collection of The Cleveland Museum of Art.



Other portraits in the Tormey-Holder Collection by Elkanah Tisdale
(click photo for larger view and additional information):


Portrait miniature by Elkanah Tisdale of a young, Federalist Era gentleman

Young, Federalist Era Gentleman



Portrait miniature by Elkanah Tisdale of an Early American lady holding a baby in her arms

Federalist Era American Lady
Holding a Baby in Her Arms



Federalist Era Gentleman
with Powdered Hair



Early Nineteenth Century American Gentleman








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