Collections › MESDA Collection › Joseph Yates II

Joseph Yates II

Malbone, Edward Greene
Place Made:
Charleston South Carolina United States of America
Date Made:
watercolor on ivory –watercolor on paper –leather –velvet
MINIATURE: HOA 2-11/16″; WOA 2-3/16″
PAPER: HOA 1-13/16″; WOA 1-11/16″
FRAME: HOA 3-1/4″; WOA 2-3/4″
Accession Number:
SITTER: Joseph Yates II (1775-1822) was born on November 16, 1775 to Joseph Yates I (1750-1781) and Sarah Atmar (1759-1833) in Charleston, South Carolina. He died February 7, 1822 and is buried in Magnolia Cemetery. At the time of his death, Yates owned an elegantly furnished townhouse on Meeting Street and a large and successful cooperage shop at Beale’s Wharf on East Bay.

Yates is documented in two different entries in Edward Greene Malbone’s account book. During Malbone’s 1801-1802 Charleston visit, he recorded “Joseph Yates Sunday 10 o’clock pd x” and “Recd of Mr. Yates $51.”

ARTIST: Edward Greene Malbone was born in Newport, Rhode Island in August 1777 to John Malbone (1735-1795) and Patience Greene. He was one of six children born to them. Officially unmarried, the children carried their mother’s name. However, after Patience Greene and the eldest son died before 1790, and Edward and his surviving siblings took his father’s name by 1797.

In 1794, Malbone left his Newport home to attempt a career as an artist. He was successful from the beginning, first in New York and other Northern cities. In 1801 he went south to Charleston where he met Charles Fraser (1782-1860), a law student with artistic ambitions, and Washington Allston (1779-1843). In 1801 Malbone and Allston sailed to England to visit the Royal Academy and to meet Benjamin West and other artists at work in London. He returned to England by way of Charleston, and again he enjoyed success. It was on a visit to Savannah in 1806 that he contracted the illness which led to his premature death on May 7, 1807 at the age of thirty.

PAPER LABEL: A pen and ink paper label affixed to the inside of the case reads “State Rights / Millions for defense, not a cent for tribute”, a likely reference to the XYZ affair of 1797 in which the French foreign minister, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand (1754-1838) demanded a loan for France and a bribe for himself from American diplomats in Paris. Charlestonian Charles Cotesworth Pinckney (1746-1825), the American minister to France, is said to have responded “millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute.” The XYZ affair became a major international scandal.

DESCRIPTION: Miniature portrait of a young man, around the age of twenty-five. He faces slightly left with brown hair and hazel eyes. He wears a navy double-breasted coat with brass buttons, and a white shirt and cravat. The background is pale blue with accents of white clouds. Watercolor on ivory encased in a wooden oval lockable frame; the case is lined with green velvet; the exterior is covered in red leather. The opposite side of the portrait has a piece of paper attached to the green velvet. The paper has an image painted in watercolor of a central palm tree with bright green palms, flanked on the right side by a soldier and on the right side by Liberty holding a scepter; the foreground is green with the word “cotton” written; the background is a seaside view with a ship in the distance.

Credit Line:
MESDA Purchase Fund