Rebecca (Kelley) Morris Baker
ARTIST: Andre Perinor (working c. 1823-1835) was a French portrait artist and showman who can be documented working in Baltimore, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Richmond, Virginia, New Orleans, Louisiana, and San Luis Potosi, Mexico, between 1823 and 1835.
The earliest reference to the artist is an advertisement in the American and Commercial Daily Advertiser of Baltimore, Maryland, on November 20, 1823. In it, “Mr. Perinor, Portrait Painter, Pupil of the Schools of Rome and Paris, has the honor to inform the public that he will take accurate LIKENESSES, at the low price of five dollars…” Four days later he advertised again. This time, in addition to restating his previous ad offering his services as a portraitist, he also offered the public, “A WONDER! That must be seen to be believed… a GRAND & EXTRAORDINARY EXHIBITION” that would include the “ascension of a large and elegant BALOON, which, when it reaches its highest elevation, will detach its Parachute.” The aerial show would be followed by an even more death defying feat:
“MR. PERINOR, Natural Philosopher, advantageously known in America, will have a large piece of CANNON… loaded… with powder and ball… A constable will deposit the same ball in the piece which the spectators will see, and hear it roll quite home… The intrepid Perinor will then place himself 50 paces in front of the cannon’s mouth and order the piece to be fired at him, when he will catch the same ball… in a shawl.”
Perinor notified his audience that, “this exhibition… (was) of a refined nature, predicated upon mathematical calculations and not by sleight-of-hand.” He added, since “doubts may exist of the possibility of Mr. Perinor’s performing what he has undertaken, the door-keepers will retain the money… to be returned in case of failure.”
By April 22, 1824 Perinor had moved on to Washington, D.C., where he offered a three-part “Philosophical Exhibition at the Washington Assembly Rooms.” These included “MECHANICAL APPARATUS, put in motion by Magnetic Fluid” as well as an:
“AUTOMATON of Mr. Vaucanson, representing a Country House, two feet high, out of which will come a Lady eight inches in height, which will make a courtesy to the audience, and walk perfectly nine inches from the house; the spectators may ask o her a choice of liquor, as brandy, wine cordials, &c. cakes, oranges, sugar plums &c; she will go into the house, and bring out whatever is asked for…”
The night’s performance would conclude with “CHEMISTRY and METAMORPHOSES,” including the, “Incombustible Handkerchief,” the “HAT OF FORTUNE,” an “INFERNAL LIGHT,” that promised to, “metamorphose all the heads of the audience, without the least injury to them,” and an “ARTIFICAL VOLCANO, from which will be seen running Lava so as to render the room as light as if it were day…” Apparently, his volcano produced more smoke than expected, forcing him to, “express his deep regret at the inconvenience which they experienced from the smoke of… Mount Vesuvius,” in a newspaper advertisement five days later.
By July of 1824 Perinor was in Richmond, Virginia. On July 26, John Augustus Chevallie wrote a letter to his friend Captain John Rutherfoord of the Richmond Artillery Company concerning, “Mr. Perinor an artist of Great merit & deserving much Encouragement… (who has been) recommended to me by the Charge d’afairs & Consul General of France.” In particular, Chevallie wanted to know if Rutherfoord could provide his friend with, “the loan of a canon,” so that Perinor could make a, “very extraordinary & hazardous experiment on Mayo Island.”
By April 1825 Perinor was in New Orleans, Louisiana. In an advertisement he informed his audience that he had studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts and stood ready to offer portraits in oils and pastels. Not long after, Perinor left New Orleans for Mexico. An “Andres Perinor” from Paris is recorded as a painter in San Luis Potosi between 1825 and 1828.
Nothing is known of Perinor’s whereabouts between 1820 and December 1834 when he advertised again in the Courrier de la Louisiane that he could be found at the “residence of Madam Widow Lebert, corner of Bourbon and Orleans.” There he was able to “take likenesses in one and two settings… his prices are from $10 to $15.” In May of 1835 he returned to the stage to supplement his income as “Mons. Perinor, the celebrated Prestigianator,” at the city’s “Vauxhall Gardens.”
At this time only four works by Perinor are known: portraits of David Baker (1786-1851) and Rebecca (Kelley) Morris Baker (1793-1854) of Richmond, Virginia, (MESDA acc. 5956.1-2); a signed portrait of an unknown woman that sold as lot 486 at Freeman’s Auctions on November 13, 2014; and a portrait of main dated 1836 cataloged by Alcala Subastas Auctions in Madrid, Spain.
George C. Groce and David H. Wallace, The New York Historical Society’s Dictionary of Artists in America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1957) 499.
John A Mahe, et. al., Encyclopaedia of New Orleans Artists (New Orleans: The Historic New Orleans Collection, 1987) 298-299
David Karel, Dictionnaire des Artistes de Langue Francaise en Americque du Nord (Quebec: Presses Université Laval, 1992) 624.