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Joseph H. Acklen Miniature

Artist: John W. Dodge (American, 1807-1893)
Oil on porcelain
Year: 1852
Size: Height - 3.125", Width - 2.5"
2015.07.01 Hayes Noel, Jr.
Provence: Adelicia Acklen to her son Joseph Hayes Acklen to his daughter Jennette Acklen Noel to her grandson Hayes Noel, Jr. to Belmont Mansion Association by gift.

A cabinet miniature of Joseph Hayes Acklen, the oldest son of Adelicia and Joseph Acklen, as a child. Joseph Hayes Acklen was born on May 19, 1850. Record of this miniature appears in Dodge’s journal on November 8, 1852. The cost was $75. On the same day Dodge was paid $125 for a miniature of this subject’s mother, Adelicia Acklen. A year earlier on November third Dodge was paid $125 for a miniature of Joseph A. S. Acklen. The notation in the journal was “one hand”. The latter two miniatures are still in the family. Adelicia is also painted with one hand. Apparently Dodge charged more for painting hands.

In the Joseph Hayes Acklen miniature Joseph is painted in clouds. In modern folk lore has it that a child painted amidst clouds indicates that the child had died. Joseph lived well into adulthood. This technique of painting children in clouds has more to do with the artist avoiding the challenge of getting the subject to pose. A child at the age of two is not going to sit still for the artist to paint.

Originally from New York, at the age of sixteen John Wood Dodge was apprenticed to a sign painter. Following his apprenticeship, he rented a studio and the winter of 1826-27 he studied at the National Academy of Design. In 1838 he left New York City and moved south. He set up temporary studios in several places including Huntsville, Alabama, Joseph A.S. Acklen’s home. He came to Nashville in May of 1841 where he worked part time in Nashville and traveled to other cities for commissions. In 1845, he purchased a “fruit ranch” in Pomona, Tennessee. By 1850, he spent most of his time there and working in Nashville only in the winters he was not traveling elsewhere. In 1861, with the beginning of the Civil War, he left Tennessee completely and moved back to New York. Retuning to Pomona on the Cumberland Plato in 1889, he continued to work till his death in 1893.[i]

For more information on his accomplishments, check out his biography on the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery’s website.

[i] Jones, Robert Editor. “Portrait Painting in Tennessee”, Tennessee Historical Quarterly, Vol. XLVI Number 4, Winter 1987. P218.

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