Boer War Page 92u
Rare Boer War Discoveries
Below are some of the key items the Canadian Boer War Museum has added to its collections
in its ongoing efforts to preserve important Canadian heritage memorabilia from this period.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
JW du Celliér, 1898, Howard Roberts
Orig. oil on canvas - Size - 9.5" x 12"
Found - Pasadena, CA
The signature, the subject matter, and the date, all conspire to certify this as an oil painted by Howard Roberts two years before he died.

He spent many years in France, studying painting and sculpting, and often returned there to carry out major commissions as well.

It is entirely conceivable, then, that this was a commission Roberts completed for an upper class French family who wanted an oil of a celebrated member by that famous American!

We are currently trying to have the Musée des Invalides track down the identity of the officer. Any ideas?

Recently we discovered, for sale, a stunning original portrait in oil that looked to be a naval officer from the late 19th century, perhaps Boer War period...

Unhappily, the vendor could not make out the signature which was extremely tiny and buried in oil, just to the right of the shoulder tassels.

On the back, in worn pencil, it seemed to say JW du Celliér, and in another place 1898. Probably French.

It looked very much like a portrait of an admiral, but it did not resemble the American or Spanish Admirals that we could remember who had been involved in the Spanish-American War. Or did it?

Since the vendor was American - and the admiral not - and Frenchmen not too being too popular in America, of late, we got it cheap.

At home we could not decipher the name of the artist either, though we tried with a loupe, and no matter how we bounced the light around the writing.

Too bad; the artist would have to remain forever anonymous!

We tried a final solution...

We took a number of close-up digital photos from various lighting angles, and went to work on them with Photoshop. We tried all the image adjustments in levels and contrasts. Nothing brought up the image.

Finally we tried colour manipulations making large changes in red, green, and blue levels.

Surprisingly, each drastic shift in colour brought out different parts of the signature...

Until - there it was, as plain as could be - H Roberts!

H Roberts who?

Howard Roberts 1843-1900

Howard Roberts was an American painter and sculptor, who along with fellow Philadelphian master painter, Thomas Eakins, was among the first of two generations of Americans to flock to Paris to study art from the masters. Howard was only 23, when he enrolled at the École des beaux-arts. He soon mastered the French academic style of portraying the human figure. The intent was to escape the academic Roman figural poses, of guys in togas just standing there, in favour of more realistic and sensual stances.

Roberts returned to Philadelphia, opened a studio and produced his first work of importance, the statuette "Hester and Pearl," taken from Hawthorne's Scarlet Letter. It attracted praise when shown at the Academy, and won him a coveted membership.

In 1873 Roberts returned to Paris where he created "La première pose" above, in marble, some 51" high, in 1876. The model, overcome with shyness at posing nude for the first time, created a sensation. Some thought it lewd. Why wasn't she standing up, with a toga on, like all those other traditional classical statues of Caesar and Brutus? Scandalous!

But it won him a medal from his peers at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition that year. It was praised as an unequalled tour de force of American sculpture, and as good as anything a French master had ever produced. It edged American sculpture towards more sophistication in subject matter and technique.

For the rest of his short life Howard Roberts concentrated on idealized figures, statues, and numerous portrait busts. He often returned to France to work.

La premiere pose is today a prize possession of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Howard Roberts sculpted the five foot statue of Robert Fulton above, pondering how to apply steam power to a vessel, out of marble in 1883. It stands in the pride of place for American sculpture - Statuary Hall of the Capitol in Washington, DC.

The Mysterious Admiral - JW du Celliér 1898

Who is this man? Pouvez-vous nous aider?

American? Français? Spanish?

Admiral? Ship's Captain? Band Leader?

Can you help?

The Musée des Invalides - that's the French Army Museum, where Napoleon's Tomb is in Paris - says this is not a French uniform! That, in spite of a French name, he is not a French Admiral... Even though at Toulon, the home port of the French Navy, they have a street named Amiral Cellier? Apparantly not our guy...

Do you have an idea where we could find out who he is? Where his uniform is from? A two-star Admiral...

Is he American, and maybe the Spanish-American War captain of the Battleship Texas, or the Iowa?

Dewey, Schley, and Sampson he is not!

Neither is he Cervera!

But he was clearly painted at the height of the Spanish-American war frenzy of 1898. During a war in which admirals became more famous than generals.

That cannot be a coincidence...

Can you help?

A close match above is JW du Cellvés

Possible variations on the name could be:

JW du Callves, Callies, Cellver, Cellies, etc.


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