WOA: 2 1/4″
ARTIST: This portrait miniature is a rare example of a signed miniature by Lawrence Sully (1769-1804), the elder brother of artist Thomas Sully (1783-1872). Lawrence Sully was born in Kilkenny, Ireland to actors Matthew and Sarah Chester Sully. The family moved to Horncastle, England, and then to America, where they briefly settled in Richmond, Virginia. On September 26, 1792, Sully first advertised as a “Miniature Painter (and Student of the Royal Academy, London).” The artist stated that his miniatures were “warranted never to fade.” Though his family would before move on to New York and Charleston, South Carolina. Lawrence chose to remain in Virginia, painting miniatures in Richmond, Norfolk, and Petersburg.
In 1793, Sully married Sarah Annis of Annapolis, Maryland. In 1801, Sully advertised a plan to open a drawing school in Richmond, but he may have moved to Norfolk before achieving this goal. Sully suffered from financial difficulties. Tradition says that he was killed in a fight with some sailors. After his death, his brother Thomas, whom Lawrence had taught and who would eventually surpass him in fame, married his widow Sarah.
CASEWORK: The portrait is set into a gold case. A plat of woven hair is visible through a small window in the back of the case. It is likely that the hairwork is also by Sully’s hand, as he advertised his ability to produce “fancy and hair devices executed in the neatest manner.” The case may be the work of gold and silversmiths William and George Richardson of Richmond. Sully is known to have sold his work through their Richmond, Virginia, shop.
DESCRIPTION: Watercolor on ivory miniature portrait of a man with white hair and blue eyes, signed and dated, “Sully/1799.” He wears a dark colored jacket and a white shirt beneath with a ruffled neck. The background is light blue at the top and fades to white. The ivory portrait is set inside an oval gold frame, the reverse with aperture containing a lock of brown hair. Having a single brass ring at the top, for hanging.