This is a finely drawn portrait of a young woman with distinctive ringlet hair of the period, her name given at bottom as "Elizabeth Hartshorne", the work signed at lower right margin "Sketch by A T Agate 1837". The work, measuring 7 3/4" by 6 1/4" plus strip frame, is a very rare example of the work of the American artist ALFRED THOMAS AGATE (1812-1846). Agate studied with his brother Frederick Styles Agate. From 1831 to 1838, as a very young man, he was in New York City. The highlight of Agate's life was the period 1838-1842, when he traveled to the far South Seas, as an expedition member of the United States Exploration Expedition commanded by Charles Wilkes, regarded today as a landmark effort that yielded tremendous scientific advance. Agate was renowned as a portrait painter and miniaturist, and he completed in the course of that journey a remarkable watercolor portrait of King Kamehameha III of Hawaii as well as topographical sketches of the islands. In that remote far western Pacific, including Samoa, the Ellice Islands (today's Tuvalu) and Fiji, he sketched botanicals, landscapes and portraits of native peoples. An island in Fiji is named for him. Agate was also active as the Wilkes expedition traveled the western coasts of South America and North America. In the Northwest, he made many historically valuable sketches of peoples and places from Mount Shasta in California through Oregon and the Columbia River country. These sketches became the source for the well-known set of illustrative prints that was ultimately made, featuring that voyage through then little-known and wild country. There are also a few known sketches from the Andes of South America. Agate was made an honorary member of the National Academy of Design in New York in 1840, after having exhibited there in the late 1830's. Sadly, the life of this talented artist was shortened in his mid 30's by consumption (tuberculosis). Today a very small number of works survive, mostly portrait miniatures; the South Seas drawings are the stuff of museum collections. This example was found recently in southern New Jersey outside Philadelphia. Some online research indicates that the name "Elizabeth Hartshorne" was common in the early 19th century in England and America. Perhaps further research could determine more about the identity of the sitter. The drawing has some old moisture staining at lower center margin and edge.
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