This striking miniature by acclaimed portrait miniaturist Robert Field depicts the prominent Philadelphia physician Dr. John Redman Coxe, whose daughter Esther Maria Coxe married Martha Washington’s grandson, Lorenzo Lewis, in 1827.
Dr. Coxe studied medicine in London and Edinburgh, as well as with Dr. Benjamin Rush at the University of Pennsylvania, where he received his degree in 1794. After further study abroad, Coxe began to practice medicine in Philadelphia in 1796. He was a professor of chemistry at the University of Pennsylvania from 1809 to 1819, then becoming chair of the materia medica and pharmacy in the medical department of the University. Coxe was an early proponent of vaccination who injected himself and his son in 1801, the year this portrait was painted. The miniature conforms to early cataloguer Harry Piers’ description of Fields portraits: “The head is carried in a grand, dignified manner, so that we are struck by the refined, aristocratic air of the sitter.” It is notable that Mount Vernon holds three other miniatures from the same year, 1801.
Field was active in the Washington, D.C. area in 1801, when he also executed a commission of 8 memorial miniatures of George Washington for his grieving wife, Martha Washington.
This miniature was given to Mount Vernon together with other important miniatures, documents and artifacts, by descendants of the Coxe-Lewis family.
Watercolor on ivory; wood, gilded metal, glass
Overall (Including case): 3 5/8 in. × 2 5/8 in. × 1/2 in. (9.21 cm × 6.67 cm × 1.27 cm)
Other (Only miniature): 2 13/16 in. × 2 1/4 in. (7.14 cm × 5.72 cm)
Gift of Mrs. Lyttleton B. P. Gould, Jr., M. Chapin Krech, Dr. Shepard Krech, Alvin W. Krech, Peter Chapin, Charles Chapin, and Mrs. Charles Merrill Chapin, III, in memory of Esther Maria Lewis Chapin, 1986
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