Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Famous Pierpont Morgan Miniature Collection

John Pierpont Morgan, Sr. (April 17, 1837 - March 31, 1913)

John Pierpont Morgan was a financier and banker of considerable wealth. By 1901 he was one of the wealthiest men in the world with a fortune estimated to be $ 1.4 billion in today's terms. He was a fearsome man as the photograph here appears to portray. It was suggested that the arm of the chair he is holding looked like a knife being pointed at the viewer! Morgan was a collector of books, clocks, gems, paintings and other art objects. His collection of portrait miniatures was probably the greatest private collection that has ever existed. His private library for his book collection and art works in 36th Street New York was made a public institution in 1925. However the miniature collection of 795 pieces was sold and dispersed in a three day sale in1935 at Christie's in London. The sale realised $349,285 ($5,460,000 in today's values) which was only two thirds of what was thought Morgan had paid in total for the collection. Some of the most important and famous pieces are now owned by major museums. Shown below are some images of hand coloured facsimilies from the catalogue of the Pierpont Morgan Collection, written by Dr. George Williamson and published in 1906. Only 20 copies of this special hand made catalogue were produced, showing this extraordinary collection.

Charles de Cosse by Jean Clouet, thought to be the very first 'stand alone' portrait miniature to exist when the artist cut it out of an illuminated manuscript he had painted

Mary, Duchess of Richmond and Lenox (1625-1685) by Jean Petitot

Mrs Pemberton by Hans Holbein which was purchased in 1904 for £2750 (£220,000 in today's values) One of the most famous miniatures in the world, it is now in the V & A Museum London

The 'Armada Jewel' with a portrait of Queen Elizabeth I by Nicholas Hilliard

Lucy, Countess of Bedford, attributed by Williamson in 1906 to John Bossam

Madame Du Barry by Richard Cosway

Mrs. Oakeley (1762-1839) by John Smart

Unknown Lady and family by Samuel Shelley

Artist's son by J H Fragonard

Madame Elizabeth by Jean Liotard

Soloman Ben Israel by P A Hall

Jean Pierre Pagin by Francois Dumont

General Kleber (1753-1800) by Jean Guerin

Children of Madame du Coincy by Jean-Baptiste Augustin

Self Portrait by Jean-Baptiste Augustin


  1. As a New Yorker, the Pierpont Morgan is one of my favorite museums, but I never heard this story about the dispersion of Morgan's miniature collection. Too bad that it wasn't kept intact, and thank you so much for sharing a portion of it in this way, it's a real treat to see it!

  2. LOVE this...thanks so much for sharing :-D

  3. Dear Mona, so glad you found the Pierpont Morgan story interesting. We have never been to the PM Museum - must make a point of visiting when we are next in the exciting Big Apple!

  4. Dear Joy, We appreciate your appreciation!