This miniature portrait is unsigned and is painted on porcelain. It has been included in the American 20C Gallery on stylistic grounds, as it was painted around 1900, although it will have been based on a photograph taken some 20 years earlier.
As it is painted on porcelain, it was most probably painted in Germany, being copied there from a photograph sent from America. American artists did not paint on porcelain, although they did sometimes paint on milk glass.
Although the sitter is unknown, it is clear he was of a Major or Colonel's rank in the United States Army. He is wearing the 1872/1879 pattern Senior Officer's frock coat which only differed in the cuffs from 1872 to 1879. The Senior Officer's coat had 18 buttons in a double row and was worn by Majors and Colonels. For a comprehensive article about the 1872 uniform, see 1872 officer's dress coat: A photo survey, The Military Images ... -
The complete rows are not visible in the image, but the Senior Officer's coat can be distinguished from the Junior Officer's frock coat which had 14 buttons and were in consequence, more widely spaced.
On his shoulders can be seen the Shoulder Knot, also called the Russian Knot. This was only used on the Frock Coat and was authorised for all ranks, except generals. The Shoulder Knot came in several color combinations and showed the branch of the army and the wearer's rank. Shoulder Knots were used in the Full Dress Version while Shoulder Boards were used in the "Undress" version.
It is interesting to note that his collar is turned down and his shirt can be seen, whereas the modern versions of 19C uniforms illustrated here show the collar upright. The significance of this not known for sure, but a knowledgeable source advises that in the 19C, officer's uniforms were private purchase, so there were variations. The army wasn't as strict with minor points of the uniform as they are today. This collar probably was such a variation. It may have been made to wear as either a stand-up or lay-down collar.
Modern made examples of the Senior Officers' Frock Coat and the Shoulder Knot are shown here and are available for purchase at US M1872 junior & senior officer's frockcoat (Indian Wars), 19th ...
The sitter in this portrait is unknown. 1289