Famed miniaturist Edward Malbone rendered South Carolinian Major Samuel Wragg (1769–1842) with his characteristic hatching technique, in which brushstrokes pass over each other in opposing directions, and using a subdued palette. The orange of the major’s shirt and the splashes of yellow on his buttons add livelier accents to the scene. Wragg stares directly at us, his clear green eyes immediately catching our attention.
Wragg may have commissioned this work to commemorate his marriage to Mary I’on in 1801. Two intertwined bundles of hair encircled by small white beads appear on the portrait’s back, suggesting that the object served as a love token. Miniature portraits often functioned to keep loved ones symbolically united during periods of separation.
Written by Timothy Clark, Class of 2012
American Art Intern, Fall 2011