About the Anne S. K. Brown Collection
This ambitious multi-year endeavor will digitize the 15,000 individual prints, drawings, and watercolors from The Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection. The artwork vividly documents all aspects of military and naval history, with emphasis on the history and illustration of world military and naval uniforms from the 17th century to the present. In addition to the material on military and naval dress, this digital collection includes portraiture, caricatures, wartime posters, original photographs, and graphics on military and naval history in general, campaigns and battles, the arts and tactics of warfare, drills and regulations. There is a vast amount of material pertaining to military decorations and insignia, heraldic ornaments, armor, weaponry, equitation, flags, knightly orders, court and ceremonial dress, architecture, and the general history of costume.
The collection contains thousands of original pencil sketches and watercolors along with mezzotints, lithographs, aquatints and other printed forms. Hundreds of artists are represented; there are original drawings by William Hogarth, Sir John Millais, and Sir John Gilbert. There are original caricature and genre drawings by Thomas Rowlandson and Sir John Tenniel. Two original pictures by Frederic Remington represent scenes of U.S. cavalrymen. A number of important twentieth-century American artists are included in the material from World War Two. There are many original artworks by leading French artists including seventeenth-century battle scenes by Jacques Courtois, caricatures by Draner and Job, figure studies by Eugene Lami, Hippolyte Bellange and Edouard Detaille, and sketches by Horace Vernet.
The prints, drawings, and watercolors are a significant part of the Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, the foremost American collection devoted to the history and iconography of soldiers and soldiering, and one of the world’s largest collections devoted to the study of military and naval uniforms. It was formed over a period of forty years by the late Mrs. John Nicholas Brown (1906-1985) of Providence and is still growing. Anne Seddon Kinsolving Brown began collecting in 1930 with the purchase of miniature lead soldiers manufactured in Europe and Great Britain. By 1950 her interest had shifted to other areas of militaria, chiefly the iconography of uniforms. Armies have traditionally been the focus of much satire and depictions of soldiers, particularly their uniforms, provide valuable information to the student of military dress. Mrs. Brown was no exception. She acquired large numbers of caricatures from all periods and countries including many original drawings and watercolors. Today the Military Collection includes 6,000 miniature lead soldiers, 14,000 printed books, 18,000 albums, sketchbooks, scrapbooks and portfolios, in addition to the 15,000 individual prints, drawings and watercolors which will ultimately comprise this digital collection. Although the artwork was originally collected to document and verify the costumes of the lead soldiers, its scholarly, bibliographic, antiquarian, and artistic importance and value has long since exceeded that of the miniatures.
The collection grew rapidly during the immediate post-war years, when many European princely libraries and print collections were dispersed. During the 1950s, Mrs. Brown purchased the greater portion of the Liechtenstein-Hauslab Kostümbibliothek; she also acquired many print series on Russian army history and uniforms from the private libraries of the Imperial Family. She also bought, in 1953, the entire personal collection of British naval prints and caricatures formed by the late historian Commander Charles Napier Robinson (R.N.). This assemblage of graphic materials contains many items not even found in the British Naval Museum at Greenwich.
Later, during the 1960s and 1970s, auctions of other famous collections and libraries resulted in the acquisition of prints illustrating Belgian, French, British, German, and Dutch uniforms and military iconography. Purchases were made from the collections of the Belgian uniform-fancier Charles Delacre, the French collector Emile Grangié, Ernst August, Duke of Brunswick, the Dutch uniform-bibliophile F. C. Koch, and the Robert Kleinert library in Switzerland. An enormous number of original watercolors by British military artists Orlando Norie, Reginald Wymer and Richard Simkin show the historical uniforms of all components of the British army for the period 1650 to 1900. Beautifully detailed hand-colored engravings by the French military artist Nicolas Hoffman illustrate the many uniforms of the French army during the latter years of the ancient régime and the Napoleonic period.
The earliest pictures in the collection date from the 16th century, and the most recent items include over 1,600 paintings, drawings and watercolors depicting World War Two by artists who served in the United States armed forces. While the collection focuses generally on Europe and North America, there is also material from Asia, Africa, and South America. Japan, China and India are well represented with many original drawings and watercolors. There are more than 200 drawings, watercolors and gouaches from India depicting a variety of subjects ranging from battles between Hindu gods, processional scenes, and uniforms to views of the British in India. The late 19th and early 20th century military history of Japan is well covered by numerous colored wood-block prints showing scenes from the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars. Highlights of the Chinese material include twelve watercolor drawings of the costumes of mandarins, their ladies and warriors, painted on rice paper within blue silk borders in Canton around 1820. Additionally, there are prints and watercolors depicting African costumes and uniforms, and numerous prints representing the military history and uniforms of Latin America and the Caribbean basin.
One of the strengths of the Military Collection is the amount of original graphic material and much of this can be found in approximately 18,000 scrapbooks, sketchbooks, albums and portfolios. Many engravings are also stored in these. Commander Charles Napier Robinson's collection consists of 20 folio volumes, copiously extra-illustrated with the author's extensive and valuable personal collection of 17th-19th century prints of British naval history, including also a large number of caricatures, songsheets, and broadsides. The collection of the late Colonel Frederick Todd, Curator of the West Point Museum, was acquired in the 1980s. It comprises more than 500 annotated albums illustrating uniforms of the entire world. Inserted into the albums are clippings, postcards, water-colors, drawings, prints, and photographs. The French section alone is covered by 75 albums documenting the history of French military and naval uniforms from 1610 to circa 1950. There are also 75 albums covering Great Britain, while the section on Russia has 26 volumes.
Artist's sketchbooks can be found in the collection. Examples include a series of sketchbooks kept by the Scottish "special" artist, William Simpson (1823-1899), during the war in the Crimea from 1854-1855 and in subsequent campaigns. A small sketchbook by the eminent French artist, Jean Meissonier (1813-1891), has fine pencil drawings of horse fittings, while an album kept by Henry Martens (fl. 1825-1865), an artist of British uniforms of the early nineteenth century, includes fine watercolors detailing regimental lace and other accouterments. One particularly rare item is a ledger book containing drawings by Chief Killer, a member of the Lacota Sioux who was incarcerated at Fort Marion, Florida, in 1877.
The most famous manuscript in the Military Collection is the diary kept by Jean Bapiste Antoine de Verger, an officer in Rochambeau's army during the American campaigns of 1780-81. This was transcribed by Mrs. Brown and incorporated in her book, The American Campaigns of Rochambeau's Army. The diary is especially prized for its watercolor sketches of Native Americans, ships, dragoons, and four soldiers of the Continental Army depicted here, including one of the earliest depictions of an African-American soldier.
While prints and engravings of uniforms are important, they don't always tell the truth in terms of what exactly was worn by soldiers. Original photographs on the other hand are excellent documents for the scholar of uniforms, and Mrs. Brown collected a significant number of original photographs dating from circa 1850 to 1945.
There are daguerreotypes of American soldiers and sailors from the pre-Civil War period, and a small group of images of the war. Carte-de-visites of officers and men from the Civil War as well as from European countries are by far the largest form of original photographs in the collection. Some of the earliest photographs of veterans are a series of fifteen original sepia views of members of Napoleon's army taken when these old soldiers were well into their 70's and 80's. These remarkable photographs provide probably the only surviving images of veterans of the Grande Armée and the Guard actually wearing their original uniforms and insignia.