How to Identify Rufus Porter’s Miniature Portraits
Porter miniatures are painted in profile and full frontal views, profiles being more common. Shown here is miniature profile portrait of an unidentified sitter in the Rufus Porter Museum Collection which demonstrates many of the hallmarks of Porter’s hand.
Ear: Gray interior of ear that forms a ‘C’; heart shape form of the lower interior back of the ear.
Eyes: Eyelashes are straight out from lid and mid tone in color; Eyeball on profile is football shaped and the pupil is a straight slash down not a dot; Eye iris is outlined on full faced miniatures and pupil is more rounded.
Lips: Brown red line delineating lip separation.
Skin: Flesh is painted in — the paper will discolor but the paint only becomes more visible as the paper deteriorates, depending on how much flesh tone pigment was used. Women were generally paler and the men ruddier in complexion. In later portraits Porter used graphite shading to show neck, chin, and ear shadowing in addition to watercolor.
Hair: Hairstyles of sitters was in the fashion of the French nobility — female sitters were often painted to include add-on corkscrew curls and tortoiseshell combs and the men often had close cut forward combed hair styles and Porter would show whiskers, neck hair and sideburns.
Porter kept the focus on the sitter’s faces by downplaying clothing details like vests and ascots, ruffles and pleats, focusing attention on the sitter’s face.
Additional information available Spring 2011 in A Very Striking Effect: New England Landscape Wall Murals from the School of Rufus Porter. Linda C. Lefko & Jane E. Radcliffe, Schiffer, Ltd. Publications.