It is amazing to me, time after time, to see the incredible detail the 17th through early 19th century portrait miniaturist artists were able to achieve in paintings so small. Portraits in miniature fascinate! They represent one of two categories, overall: 1. 18th to 19th century paintings done 'apres' or after the work of famous artists, small copies painted by other artists as souvenirs for the early Grand Tour traveler, and 2. 12th century through 19th century, the commissioned portrait of a person, living or dead, whose likeness will be painted by hand on a thin wafer (or perhaps a panel of wood or metal), as the perfect likeness of that person. Since the one of a kind true portraiture pre-dates early photography which was only invented c.1838, almost all portrait miniatures predate that era, and would be commissioned by the wealthy, positioned or titled. Napoleon was one of the earliest leaders who understood fully the power of the triumphant image as propaganda - essentially, advertising, and his reputation grew both from reality and
from the proliferation of paintings and prints, large and small of his triumphs, spread far and near. Josephine was said to have traveled widely, as well, and handed out small paintings of herself and of Napoleon. But for most, these paintings will represent the single image of the person that survives through time, often without ID, without the memory or story of their life. We love all forms of the portraits and paintings in miniature, and will be listing a large collection of them here, the brief description of which will follow:
Likely an English gentleman, earliest 1800s, youthful in features but with the Napoleonic era influenced hair we know was fashionable in latest 1700s to as late as 1820s. A fine ruffled ascot and red silk-trimmed black vest are topped by his royal blue high-collared top coat, and his full on forward gaze captures us, his viewer, as well as the artist captured his personality and image here. A superb little oval with remarkable detail, the face of this painting is less than 1" in height - imagine! Sealed backing remains adhered so that we couldn't get into the excellent painting to either clean the cover glass (sorely needs it) or to scan the painting and/or look for a signature, but you can see even so, it is a very fine painting. The portrait in goauche is on thin wafer typical of the era and genre. Well framed in an oval matted frame with top bale, easily hung on a family's larger 'heritage' frame of miniatures, or hung on its own. This frame is typical of those used in earliest 1800s England (Georgian) and it is in good form.
Very good to excellent condition for age and type. There are no chips, cracks, breaks and no damage to report on the painting, wafer. The 2-sided large locket-style frame is closed giving us access to the painting only through the cover glass front, so we can't check to see if there might be a signature on backside or on the outer perimeter which is sometimes the case, but there is not one on the face of the painting. Both cover glasses in the locket are intact and without damage and they are both thick and convex, forming a bit of an oyster-shape typical of the English frames from this era. Frame shows age, is missing a pin-back, has a bit of rub and mar we didn't even try to remove, and also appears to have some old restoration which is more visible from backside, seems to have to do with addition of the bale. Top hanging bale is well secured. We show its backside in images and you can see that, while there isn't an entirely plaited hair backside typical of this era, there are 2 chestnut locks with a few grey strands and which are tied with gold wire. It seems likely they belong to the gentleman in the painting. Cover glass on both sides is original from all we can tell, in very fine condition. A lovely 1770-1820 portrait miniature.
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