Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait enamel of a Gentleman, wearing a burgundy coat with fur-trimmed border 

Horace Hone 1754/6-1825

Portrait enamel of a Gentleman, wearing a burgundy coat with fur-trimmed border, Horace Hone
Watercolour on ivory
18th Century
Oval, 1 5/8 in. (42mm.) high
Son of the artist Nathaniel Hone, Horace was taught by his father before entering the Academy schools the same year as this miniature was painted in 1770. This portrait miniature is a remarkable accomplishment for a sixteen year old and indicates the natural talent (and presumably the early training) of the artist. Two years later he began exhibiting at the Royal Academy, moving to Dublin ten years later in 1782. In 1795 he was appointed miniature painter to the Prince of Wales. His successful Irish practice was badly affected by the 1800 Act of Union as many of his fashionable patrons moved to London after this date. In 1804 he returned to London but suffered increasing bouts of mental instability. A letter from Hone, now in the archives of the Royal Academy and dated 1820 shows him pleading for a pension in the face of financial ruin. This was duly awarded, together with a donation of £50. Hone died in 1825 in Dover Street, Mayfair.
This portrait from early in Hone’s career is typical in terms of the small size and carefully applied precise brushstrokes. It probably represents a member of Hone’s family or close circle of friends, as it is unlikely that he would have been given a formal commission at this stage. His distinctive later works are painted with a watery fluidity on larger ivories with an elegance which won him commissions from royalty and aristocracy.

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