An Alfred T. Agate watercolor on natural substrate of a nicely featured gentleman. The sitter is attired in a black jacket with black stock and a white vest and shirt. Housed in a cast foliate case with a ringlet of hair in the glazed compartment verso.
Condition of the painting and the case is excellent, with no flaws to speak of. Sight size is 2 1/4" by 1 3/4", and the case size is 2 1/2" by 2 1/8".
Alfred Agate (1812-1846, born in Sparta, N.Y. was the younger brother of the artist Frederick Agate (1807-1844). He arrived in New York City around 1830 where he met Thomas Seir Cummings who taught him the art of miniature painting. Agate exhibited miniatures at The National Academy from 1831 through 1839 and was an associate of the Academy. From 1838 to 1842 he travelled around the world as portraitist and botanical artist with Charles Wilkes and the U.S. Exploring Expedition Corps. He spent four years in the South Pacific and was there to document the expedition’s historic visit to the Antarctic. While with the Wilkes Expedition, Agate created an enduring record of traditional cultures, including dress and tattoo patterns of natives of Hawaii and the Pacific. He painted many portraits of people including royalty such as King Kamehameha III. On his return in 1842 he went to Washington, D.C. where he prepared engravings from his drawings for Wilkes’ report of the expedition. The drawings made on the expedition are now The Alfred Agate Collection, and are in the Naval Historical Center, Washington, DC. It is probable that Agate painted few, if any miniatures during this period. He died in Washington on January 5, 1846.
Agate was an extremely talented artist and much of his work shows Cummings’ influence. Both used similar stippling and crosshatching techniques, with the modelling and use of color also being quite similar. Agate’s best work can be taken for a Cummings of high quality. Since Agate only effectively worked as a miniaturist for a period of six years examples of his works are uncommon.