“Dumbfounding Versatility” [1]

By Miriam Ehrlich

Hi, it’s Miriam! The object this week is a beautiful Tiffany glass vase from the Victorian era. It has a wide opening with a fluted rim. It is considered “art glass” because of the unique iridescent glow of purple, blue, and green. It is 2 inches in height and diameter and is in good condition. It is the hidden gem of the current Victorian bedroom in the Deyo house.



The vase is a perfect example of the Victorian era that spanned from 1837 to 1901. The purpose of art glass both then and now was more for aesthetic purposes than utility, even though it can be used as such.2 Items from the Victorian era were often meant to display wealth and elegance. If this item was in one of the original houses, it surely would have caught the attention of house guests.

Tiffany glass, not to be confused with Tiffany & Co., was started by Louis Comfort Tiffany in the 1800s. A collection of Tiffany’s work is on display in the Morse Museum in Florida. Originally trained as a painter, Tiffany discovered glassmaking in his early 20s, which is the work that makes him most famous today.3 He is credited for the invention of the favrile glass, which is glass that has the iridescent glow.4 This type of glass can be highly valuable, easily costing hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

Look for this item in the Victorian bedroom in the Deyo House when you take a tour this season!

1 “Louis Comfort Tiffany.” The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art: Winter Park, FL, n.d. Web. May 2016.

2 “Art Glass Vases & Vessels.” Artful Home, n.d. Web. April 2016.

3 “Louis Comfort Tiffany.” The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art: Winter Park, FL, n.d. Web. April 2016.

4 “Louis Comfort Tiffany.” Encyclopædia Britannica, n.d. Web. April 2016.


Life Before Photography

By Deanna Schiavone

This week we will be looking at a silhouette of the bust of Mary Clinton in the late 18th century. The silhouette is oval within the original black wooden frame. Clinton’s image was made by cutting light paper to resemble her silhouette and framing it against a black silk. This is known as a hollow-cut silhouette because the light colored positive middle drops away to leave the negative against dark paper or fabric.1 During the late 1700s, Neoclassicism inspired an interest in this simplified form of portraiture from profile images from ancient Egypt and Greece.2


The three basic types of silhouettes are painted, hollow-cut, or cut-out and they can further be divided into busts or full figure.3 Artisans free-cut, traced or used machinery, such as a physiognotrace machines, in order to produce these keepsakes.4 People got these to have as family treasures, to wear, or just to simply use to remember a loved one. Sittings took five minutes or less and by having one copy they could be remade easily.5 These were cheaper forms of portrait miniatures that artisans produced throughout the countryside when they were tight on money. They were popular until the world of photography took its first form as daguerreotypes.

Mary Clinton was born in 1773 to General James and Mary Clinton. Her Father was a Major General in the Continental Army.6 One of her siblings was Governor DeWitt Clinton, the father of the Erie Canal. She was married twice, once to Robert Burrage Norton and then to Ambrose Spencer.7  With Norton she had 2 children until his death in 1803. In 1808, she married Spencer, politician and judge, as his second wife. Within that year, Mary died and Spencer married her sister Katherine.

The silhouette is on display in our new exhibit, Capturing the Likeness: 19th-Century Portrait Miniatures. Every round of curatorial interns at HHS has the opportunity to curate an exhibit to be displayed in the DuBois Fort. This semester, I researched portrait miniatures along with Miriam Ehrlich and we are excited for this exhibit to finally be open! It will be on display in the DuBois Fort until June 21.

1 Knipe, Penley. “Paper Profiles: American Portrait Silhouettes.” Journal of the American Institute for Conservation 41, no. 3. American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works: Washington, DC, 2002. 203-223.

2 Ibid.

3 Welter, Lisa. “Types, Techniques and Analysis of Silhouettes.” Arlington Historical Society: Arlington, MA, 2013. Web. 5 May 2016.

4 Ibid.

5Portrait Miniatures: Other Types of Small Portraiture.”  Victoria and Albert Museum: London, 2016. Web. 5 May 2016.

6Mary Spencer.” Geni.com. MyHeritage Ltd. Web. 5 May 2016.

7Mary Clinton Letter to her father, James Clinton, MS 2958.1984.” The New-York Historical Society: New York. Web. 5 May 2016.

On Display: “Capturing the Likeness: 19th-Century Portrait Miniatures”

Capturing the Likeness:
19th Century Portrait Miniatures
Exhibition by the Curatorial Department
DuBois Fort Visitor Center, 81 Huguenot Street
May 7 – July 6, 2016

henryhasbrouckbyjohncarlin1The art of miniature portrait-making came to America from Europe in the 18th century. It was highly popular until the late 19th century when photography took hold. Originally, the idea of painting miniatures came from two sources: portrait metals from classical antiquity and illuminated manuscripts from the Middle Ages. In most cases, the likenesses were given to loved ones and valued as treasures. Portrait miniatures took just as long to make as full-sized paintings because of the necessary small detail. Most of the time, the medium was watercolor on ivory and pieces were framed in cases that could be opened and closed. Miniaturists traveled the countryside to make profit by creating silhouettes as well, an option that was cheaper than a miniature oil or watercolor.

Capturing the Likeness: 19th-Century Portrait Miniatures features nine portrait miniatures and silhouettes. This exhibit explores both the creation of the miniatures as well as the prominent early 19th-century Hudson Valley families that they depict.  Two of the major families in this exhibit are the family members of Brigadier General Henry Cornelius Hasbrouck and the ancestors of Governor DeWitt Clinton. Works by prominent artists of the time, John Carlin and Anthony Meucci, are presented.