gilbert, potrait, miniatures
Locket with the Four Seasons . Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.301-2008
Locket with the Four Seasons
Enamel on gold
Blois or Paris, France
Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.301-2008
In the workshops of Blois, Châteaudun and Paris, watches, jewellery and other small items of silver and gold were often decorated with enamelled allegorical figures. Many of the earliest portrait enamellers came from jewellery, watch-making or goldsmithing backgrounds.
One side of this locket depicts Autumn, personified as a woman in a gold cape, and Winter, an elderly man with a beard. The other side depicts Spring, a woman with a garland of flowers in her hair, and Summer, a woman with ears of corn in her hair and holding a sickle. On the inside of the lid are two peasant figures holding a lamb.
Gold, copper, silver and iron were all used as supports for enamel portrait miniatures. Copper became the most common support as it was less expensive and could be fired at higher temperatures than gold. The metal for the support was first cut into a panel, often less than 1mm thick, and then hammered to create a slightly curved surface.
George Washington. Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.230-2008
Enamel on copper in gilded copper-alloy frame
Henry Bone (1755-1834), after Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828)
Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.230-2008
Henry Bone, the best known English enameller, began his career as apprentice to a porcelain manufacturer, painting landscapes and floral scenes. He experimented with enamel techniques throughout his career, and his time working with porcelain was probably an important factor in this. By 1779 he was working in a London enamel workshop, painting decoration for watches and jewellery.
Enamellers often copied well-known oil paintings, and this miniature is after the 1796 portrait of the first US president, George Washington (1732-99), by Gilbert Stuart, one of four known enamels by Bone from this source.
The inscription on the reverse -'cracked in the fifth fire'- reveals how difficult the firing process was, particularly when making larger pictures such as this one. As each colour has a different melting point, they were painted on and fired separately, beginning with the colour that melted at the highest temperature. With each firing there was an increased risk of damage - the enamel might bubble or pit, or the colours could burn. It was not possible to correct mistakes. In around 1800 a clear glaze was perfected which gave a shiny finish that helped to hide irregularities created by the firing process.
Young woman in blue dress. Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.248-2008
Young woman in blue dress
Enamel on copper in silver and diamond frame, border possibly later
Jean-Baptiste Weyler (1747-91)
Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.248-2008
Born and trained in Strasbourg before moving to Paris, Jean-Baptiste Weyler is regarded as the best French enamel painter of his time. He painted miniatures on ivory and in pastels, as well as in enamel. This was not unusual as by the 18th and 19th centuries, many renowned enamellers were also pastellists or oil painters, not goldsmiths, jewellers or watchmakers as earlier portrait enamellists often were.
Some enamellers painted their sitters from life, as Weyler seems to have done in this miniature, using great skill to translate the woman's lively beauty into enamel. He was popular with contemporaries for his production of multiples of an image for commercial purposes, but this miniature shows that his strength was in 'real' portraits, of which he did very few.
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.263-2008
Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire
Enamel on copper in original gilded metal frame probably made or supplied by Hurter
Johann Heinrich Hurter (1734-99)
Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.263-2008
Johann Heinrich Hurter's career began as an enamel painter, miniaturist and pastellist. In around 1777 he settled in London where he was reputedly appointed as a court painter. No documents exist to prove this, although he did make a number of portraits of Queen Charlotte, George IV, and some of their children.
This enamel miniature is based on a full-scale oil painting by Angelica Kauffman of John Spencer of Althorp with his sisters. Many enamellers used existing paintings or prints as the basis for their portraits. Miniatures could also provide new and portable versions of family portraits or offer the public an image of a famous sitter. Although painted in 1779, the Duchess is portrayed as she appeared in 1774, the year of her marriage to the 5th Duke of Devonshire, Two slightly different versions of this miniature exist.
The Young Pretender, Charles Edward Stuart, 'Bonnie Prince Charlie'. Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.240:1, 2-2008
The Young Pretender, Charles Edward Stuart, 'Bonnie Prince Charlie'
Enamel on copper in original papier-mâché frame with gilded copper-alloy mounts
Denis Brownell Murphy (about 1745-1842), after an unknown version
Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.240:1, 2-2008
Denis Brownell Murphy was born in Dublin and worked in England, Ireland and Scotland before finally settling in London in around 1803.
This portrait comes from a set of miniature enamel portraits painted by Brownell Murphy illustrating the lineage of the House of Stuart, using portraits in Scottish collections as source material. The series starts with Mary, Queen of Scots (reigned 1542-67) and ends with James Francis Edward Stuart (1688-1766) and Charles Edward Stuart (1720-88), neither of whom became king. While they are depicted in a way that emphasises their part in the royal succession, the frames of their portraits are missing the symbolic crowns of kingship present on the other portrait frames in the series.
This portrait shows Charles Edward Stuart, known as 'Bonnie Prince Charlie', dressed in Stuart tartan with a blue velvet tam, with blue sash and star, and the Order of the Garter, which he was awarded in his exile despite the rebellion.
Henry, Prince of Wales. Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.245:1, 2-2008
Henry, Prince of Wales
Enamel on copper in gilded metal frame
Henry Pierce Bone (1779-1855), after Robert Peake (died 1626)
Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.245:1, 2-2008
Signed, inscribed and dated on counter-enamel 'Henry Prince of Wales / Son of James 1.st / London Oct. 1845. Painted by / Henry Pierce bone. Enamel / Painter to Her Majesty & H.R.H. / Prince Albert &c From the Original by Vansomer in the / Collection of the Earl of / Craven, Combe Abbey'
Henry Pierce Bone was the son of the famous enamel painter Henry Bone. Like his father, whose style he emulated, many of his enamels were copied from full-scale paintings. He enjoyed royal patronage and was appointed enamel painter to Queen Caroline, the Duchess of Kent, and Princess Victoria in 1833 and Prince Albert in 1841.
Henry, Prince of Wales (1594-1612) was the eldest son of James I (reigned 1603-25) who died of typhoid fever aged 8. Painted some 235 years after his death, this appears to be a copy of the full-length portrait by Robert Peake, dated about 1610, in the National Portrait Gallery, London.
Jupiter and Antiope. Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.299:1, 2-2008
Jupiter and Antiope
Jean-Pierre Huaut (1655-1723) and/or Ami Huaut (1657-1724)
Enamel on copper in gold and copper-alloy frame; gilded silver on reverse, with glazed reverse made in France, about 1900
Signed on counter-enamel 'Huaut p'
Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.299:1, 2-2008
The Huaut brothers started mass-production of colourful enamel plaques depicting mythological or erotic scenes, such as this one of the Roman god Jupiter disguised as a faun, uncovering the sleeping Antiope, daughter of the king of Thebes. This myth was frequently used as a way of portraying the female nude.
This plaque may have originally been intended as a lid or cover for a casket or a box. Images created in enamel were ideal for decorating small objects such as watches, snuffboxes and small caskets (this enamel measures just 4.5 x 6.5 centimetres), and many were decorated with portraits, allegorical or mythological scenes. Depending on their size, enamels could also be set into jewellery so that they could be worn close to the body.
Queen Caroline. Museum nos. Loan:Gilbert.279-2008
Enamel on copper in gold frame with ivory backing
Christian Friedrich Zincke (about 1683-1767)
Museum nos. Loan:Gilbert.279-2008
The son of a Dresden goldsmith, Christian Freidrick Zincke was apprenticed to his father, and also studied painting. In 1706 he came to London to work at Charles Boit's studio, and when Boit left for France in 1714 it appears Zincke inherited many of his fashionable clients. He went on to become the most successful enamel painter of his era.
This enamel portrait was made in the same year that Zincke spent time at the English court drawing portraits of the royal family. It shows Queen Caroline (1683-1737), consort of George II (reigned 1727-60), in the same dress she wears in a full-scale painting by Kneller of 1716. This miniature closely relates to two in the Royal Collection. Zincke painted using existing portraits for reference, as in this case, but also paint from life. To create skin tones he used a stipple technique of tiny red dots, sometimes described as 'measles'.