Artifact Corner: Miniature by Charlotte Demming

Hi everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at a small portrait in a metal frame. This portrait is diminutive in stature, but quite grand in its details. This is a bust of a woman, painted on ivory, and set in a gold frame. There is a concave piece of glass covering the ivory portrait. On the back, in ink, is written the following inscription:
Copied from an original painting by Sir Thomas Lawrence in the year 1821 – a Magdalene. Done at Buffalo N.Y. in October 1835 – by the privilege of the possessor considered very very good. Charlotte Denning Artist.
Let’s try to learn a bit more about this miniature painting.

If the inscription on the back is true, this is a copy of an original artwork by Sir Thomas Lawrence. Lawrence was born on April 13th, 1769 in Bristol, England. Lawrence was a child prodigy, where his father was an innkeeper at the Bear Hotel in the Market Square. At the age of ten, having moved to Bath, he was supporting his family with his pastel portraits. At eighteen he went to London and soon established his reputation as a portrait painter in oils. He became one of the most popular portrait artists of the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. His ability to capture the likeness of a subject was renowned. He painted many of the English aristocracy including Queen Charlotte, and notable English figures, such as the Duke of Wellington. Thomas Lawrence died suddenly at the age of 61 in 1830, and the remainder of his works in his studio were sold quickly to pay off his debts.

So, how did a woman in Buffalo NY come to see the original and copy it? That’s an excellent question, and quite simply we don’t know the answer. There is not a lot known about Charlotte Denning. In some instances, her portraits are signed Charlotte D E N N I N G, in others it’s spelt D E M I N G. I know that is states on the back of this portrait that it was painted in Buffalo, but it looks like Charlotte also lived here in Plattsburgh. She was active as an artist between 1830 to 1874. She exhibited at the National Academy of Design in New York City, which was founded in 1825. In 1834 artist and one of the founders of the National Academy of Design William Dunlap states that “Miss Charlotte Denning, miniature painter of Plattsburgh, NY.” Given that Charlotte lived in Plattsburgh, it’s not unreasonable to assume someone from our family purchased or was gifted this piece of art from her.

This miniature portrait is housed in a metal standing frame potentially made of bronze. It has scrolls and grape leaves, and is in quite good condition. The portrait itself is in excellent condition, likely because it is covered with glass. It is a beautiful piece and we are so lucky to have it in our collections. Thanks so much for stopping by.

The following music was used for this media project:
Music: Sunny Morning by MusicLFiles
Free download:
License (CC BY 4.0):
Artist website: