Alice Karle Appraisal

Fine & Decorative Art

Meucci Portrait Miniature

Antonio Meucci painting of Reuben or Charlegmagne Tower
Anthony Meucci

Meucci Portrait Miniature

A Little Gem of a Miniature Portrait
Signed by Meucci – Antonio (Anthony) and/or Nina
Portrait of Charlemagne Tower or Reuben Tower
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Size: 4 x 3.25 inches, plus original frame, with original convex glass. Signed center left in column.

Family Provenance: Henrietta Tower Page to Charlie Tower (also named Charlemagne) and then descended in the family. Written on back of portrait in photo above. Henrietta was the daughter of Reuben Tower and sister of Charlemagne Tower I.

The subject of this Meucci miniature portrait according to family tradition is Reuben Tower. Reuben was born February 15, 1787 in Rutland, Mass. and would have been approximately 39 years old at the time the portrait was painted. Reuben Tower was a New York State legislator. His wife was Deborah Taylor Pierce.

It is also possible the subject is Reuben’s son, Charlemagne Tower I (CTI). Charlemagne Tower was born April 18, 1809. He would have been 17 or 18 years of age around 1826, when the portrait was painted. CTI was an assistant teacher at the Utica Academy (N.Y) in 1826, and then went on to Harvard. 

The portrait has descended in the family. It was discovered in a drawer in the family storage unit, and is fresh to the world. The artists, Anthony and Nina Meucci, were in New York circa 1826. Nina and Anthony Meucci painted separately, and as a team.

I like this miniature portrait because of the unusual and extreme level of fine detail. The subject is handsome, and there are relevant background images including a column, library, etc. We can see he is a man of letters. To include such detail in so small a portrait is an unusual accomplishment. I also like the use of color, particularly reds, and the folds in the curtain.

About the Tower Family: Charlemagne Tower I (CTI) was an American lawyer and businessman active in acquiring land in the Schuylkill Valley in Pennsylvania and serving as an officer for coal and railroad companies. He organized and led a company of Union soldiers from Pottsville in a 3-month enlistment during the American Civil War, when he was commissioned as Captain. After the war, with the sell-off of lands by the Northern Pacific Railroad, CTI acquired large tracts in the upper Midwest and Northwest. He developed the famous iron ore Soudan Mine in Minnesota. Reuben Tower, Charlemagne’s father was a New York State legislator. Much more info is available about the various members of the Tower family.

About the Artist/s: Antonio (Anthony) Meucci was born in Italy, and he and his wife Nina, who was born in Spain, emigrated to the United States in 1818. They shared a studio and painted in America between 1818 and 1827, before leaving for Central and South America. With a home base often in New Orleans, the Meuccis traveled to, and worked in Charleston, South Carolina (1822), New York (1823, 1826) and Salem, Massachusetts (1825). In 1824 they exhibited four miniatures at the American Academy of Fine Arts. In 1827, the Meuccis moved to Havana Cuba, and later to Columbia,  Ecuador, Peru and Chile. Antonio passed away in 1852.

The Meuccis painted miniatures, as well as some larger works. Meucci’s portrait subjects included George Washington, Simon Bolivar, and the Marquis de Lafayette.

The Meuccci miniature portrait was successfully sold on behalf of our client.

Please note the convex glass casts a shadow, and the detail of the column extends to the edge of the painting.