Tinsel Picture Art from 1861

Antique Tinsel Picture, 1861 American Reverse Painting, Provenance Documents and Photographs by Joshua Boyd Hamilton
Dead  Mr. Joshua Hamilton 1889
Mr. Joshua Hamilton 1889
Tinsel Picture Complete set of history information
History of Artist  and Twin Brother

















This tinsel picture was made by a 9 year old boy named Joshua Boyd Hamilton (1851-1889) in 1861 in Indiana, at the start of the Civil War. It's documented in written family notes and accompanied by photographs. The picture, reverse painted on glass, is that of a stemmed compote holding fanciful flowers, set against a sky blue background, reminiscent of a theorem. The painting was then backed by foil, perhaps from candy wrappers he collected. There are areas of the glass that were left unpainted and the silvery shine of the foil twinkles through, charming in a home that was lighted by candles or gas fixtures. It's interesting to note that painting tinsel pictures is usually classified as a woman's hobby. 


The documentation by family members is tucked into two envelopes affixed to the wooden back on the picture. We have photographed each of them. One of the notes was written by Alice Gavins in 1951, stating that her uncle Joshua painted this and she has had it in her possession since 1891. The funeral photo is of Joshua; we found in our research that he became a pharmacist and died at 38 of a drug addiction. There is additional history of this family online. 


This picture is framed in 7/8 inch wide wood with a dark finish and a gold leaf liner that is aged and spotted. Overall measurements are approximately 9 inches wide by 11 inches tall by 1 inch thick. The wooden panel on the reverse is secured with hand cut nails, with screw eyes and hanging wire installed. The piece is in good condition, with chipping to the frame's finish and some small flaking of the paint on the glass. The glass has a tiny round chip at the upper right but no cracks and the frame corners are tight. 

Tinsel Picture Full Back View with old hand written history and photos
Back View of Tinsel Picture Frame with Hand Written History and Old Photos


Created just 45 years after Indiana became a state, this is a wonderful example of American folk art.

© Linda Henrich
Photos by Wayne Henrich

1 comment:

  1. Such a nice post. Tackling the theme of art and history, the writer clearly has a passion for the social sciences or something along the lines of that. The post looks really nice and detailed.

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