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Portrait of Augusta Ball Hughes

Augusta Ball Hughes
Oil painting by Henry Inman (1801-1846), NY 1839
From a private collection
Images courtesy of the Owner
Provenance, unknown
Text on brass plate:
Portrait of Augusta Ball Hughes
Painted 1839
1801 – 1846
Closeup of a different image 
Closeup of a different image
Click to enlarge 
Rear view
Augusta Ball (Hughes) Brown
abt 7 years
youngest daughter of
Robert Ball Hughes and
his wife Eliza.
Painted by Col.
[sic] Henry Inman, NY
in 1839
Text of small paper label:
H. Inman
Lot No. label
    Augusta Ball (Hughes) Brown (1832-1914) was my great great grandmother and daughter of the Sculptor, Robert Ball Hughes (1804-1868), and Eliza Ball Hughes (1807-1892). She was about 7 years old at the time of this portrait. This painting was previously in the home of the owners’ grandparents in Connecticut, the provenance is unknown.
    Note that the painter, Henry Inman, is not the Col. Henry Inman who was born in 1837. Since the verso mentions Augusta’s married name, Brown, the label must have been attached sometime after she married B F Brown in 1852.
The brass label on the front of the frame was apparently added sometime after Inman's death in 1846. 
    Henry Inman (1801-1846) was the leading portrait painter of his time according to AskART - The Artists’ BluebookInman was active in the New York where he established a studio and was one of the founders of the National Academy of Design in 1825–26.
    The Ball Hugheses were living in New York from 1829 to 1838, at the same time as Inman. See New York: 1829-1838 on this site for more information about the Ball Hugheses in New York at that time. Ball Hughes modeled a plaster bust of Henry Inman in January 1837 that's in the National Academy of Design in NYC.
    According to David B. Dearinger in "Paintings and Sculpture in the Collection of the National Academy of Design, Volume I, 1826-1925," New York, NY: Hudson Hills Press, (National Academy of Design), 2004. pp. 288-289, Ball Hughes became an Honorary Member of the NAD in 1833. In the same year, Ball Hughes was elected a member of the board of directors of the American Academy of Fine Arts, a rival to the NAD, that was founded by Ball Hughes’s benefactor, Col. John Trumbull.
    According to Dearinger,  p. 289: “It is not known whether the two artist’s were friends, but the intelligence and beneficence evident in Hughes’s bust of Inman would suggest that they at least respected one another professionally.”
    The discovery of this portrait leads me to believe that the two men were very close, like John Trumbull and Ball Hughes were, and Auguste Edouart in the 1840's. In both of these cases the artists did works of each other and Ball Hughes's family members. The portrait may have been done in exchange for Ball Hughes’s bust of Henry Inman or as a courtesy.
     The handwriting on the verso resembles that of labels on other artwork that's in the Brown family. The Lot No. label on the back of the frame suggests that the portrait was sold at auction. The small paper label says "H. Inman 1890." What is the significance of 1890? Was it the date that the portrait was listed for auction?
    It's a mystery why the family would have sold this portrait (and other family artwork), unless it was part of a descendants estate. Augusta's husband, B. F. Brown (1828-1908), was a preserver of Ball Hughes legacy, their son, George Edward Brown (1857-1933), was the family genealogist, and George's brother, Frederick Walter Brown (1855-1935), was a collector of memorabilia. I can't imagine any of them or Frederick Walter Brown's sons (my grandfather and his brother), selling the portrait. That leaves the Hugheses themselves or their eldest daughter, Georgina (1829-1911).
    This discovery raises the possibility that an Inman portrait of Augusta's older sister, Georgina, might also exist.
    I'm grateful to the Owner of this portrait for allowing me to share it with you. Thank you on behalf of the Brown family.
last update 11/29/2011
For noncommercial use, Copyright David E. Brown 2008-2011