An unusual and spectacular pair of portrait miniatures. Although both are signed by Moses B. Russell, it is almost certain, due to slight technique variances, that the portrait of the woman was done by Mrs. Moses B. Russell, nee Clarissa Peters. Although it is known that some of his signed pieces were, in fact, done by her, I know of no other instance where each artist did one of a pair.
The paintings are in excellent condition, with vibrant colors and no cracks, bowing, mold, retouch, or other flaws. They are under glass in brass frames. In turn, the removable framed paintings are set into fabric covered card surrounds which are set into a leather over wood case, which appears to be original. The card surrounds, which are also removable, are quite stained, but could be re-colored. Photos in this listing show the various parts of the construction. Sight size of each of the miniatures is 3 1/8" by 2 3/8", with the closed case size being 5 1/2" by 4 1/2".
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES: Clarissa Peters (1809-1854) was born in North Andover, MA, one of 12 children.
In 1835 she was in Boston, painting miniatures and giving instruction in the art as well. In 1839 Clarissa married Moses B. Russell, with whom she had sought instruction in painting. Russell remained actively sought after as a portraitist until her death, which occurred as a result of violent seasickness. Such was her stature that the Boston Atlas memorialized her with a front-page obituary, and notices were also published in other papers.
Moses B. Russell (1810-1884) was born in either New Hampshire or Massachusetts. He worked in Boston between 1831 and 1853, and after his wife’s death, spent almost a decade in Italy. He returned to Boston in 1863, and worked there and in New York and Philadelphia for the rest of his life.
The Russells were active in Boston from around 1842 to 1854, living on School Street and exhibiting work at the Boston Athenaeum. Clarissa also showed work at the Boston Artists Association in 1842 and 1843, and at the Art and Mechanics Associations. She and her husband worked closely together, and their styles are similar enough that it is difficult to tell their work apart. Furthermore, her paintings, which are often either unsigned or bear her husband's name, have sometimes been mistaken for those of Joseph Whiting Stock.
Works of the Russells are in many museum collections, including those of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cincinnati Art Museum, and the North Andover Historical Society. Their paintings are highly sought after by collectors of folk art and miniatures.