Lady Ann (Moodie) Houstoun
This is probably one of the minatures mentioned in her daugher Jean (Houstoun) Woodruff’s 1848 will. The gold bracelet to which the miniature is mounted is in a mid-to-late Victorian style of the 1870s, and an identical gold bracelet survives on the circa 1785 miniature of Sir George Houstoun attributed to the British artist George Engelheart (MESDA Acc. 3353.1).
ATTRIBUTION and ARTIST: This work has been attributed to Hetty Benbridge (d. 1776), the wife of Lowcountry artist Henry Benbridge. Esther (Sage) Benbridge, known as Hetty, had trained in Philadelphia under Charles Willson Peale, who later noted her skills in painting minatures. When she arrived in Charleston on April 5, 1773, the South Carolina Gazette described her as “a very ingenious Miniature Paintress.” This miniature was painted around the time of Ann’s 1774 marriage, which corresponds closely with Hetty’s working dates from her arrival in 1773 until her death in 1776. Three large group portraits attributed to her husband Henry–depicting the Bulloch, Tannatt, and Wylly families–suggest the Benbridges were in Savannah in the mid 1770s. The Tannatt family portrait features Ann’s mother-in-law, Lady Priscilla Houstoun (1711-1775), her brother-in-law James Houstoun and his wife, Elizabeth Tannatt Houstoun. It is in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada (NGC acc. 9003).
For more on Hetty Benbridge and the attribution of Ann Moodie Houston’s miniature, see:
Robert G. Stewart, “Henry Benbridge (1743-1812): American Portrait Painter” (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press for the National Portrait Gallery, 1971), 82-85, Fig. 147.
RELATED OBJECTS: MESDA also owns a circa 1785 miniature of her husband Sir George Houstoun attributed to the British artist George Engelheart (acc. 3353.1). The Museum also owns a pair mourning miniatures by artist Samuel Folwell (1765-1813) that were painted for Ann between 1792-1795.
DESCRIPTION: Watercolor on ivory, miniature portrait attached to bracelet of woman. She wears a tight pearl necklace, and a low cut pink dress. Her hair is brown and it is tied in a bun upon her head. The miniature is set inside a gold bracelet.