Historical Portraits Picture Archive

An enamel miniature of a Noblewoman, wearing ochre-yellow gown with white underslip, held with a jeweled clasp 

Bernard Lens (1714-after 1754)

An enamel miniature of a Noblewoman, wearing ochre-yellow gown with white underslip, held with a jeweled clasp, Bernard Lens
Enamel on copper
17th Century
Oval, 47mm (1 7/8in) high
English Private Collection
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This delightful enamel of a young woman was previously attributed to the London-based Swiss enamellist Jean André Rouquet (1701-1758) until the counter enamel was revealed. The distinctive, cursive monogram of Peter Paul Lens was then uncovered and this example remains to date the only extant example of his work in this medium.

The son of Bernard Lens III (1682-1740), the man credited with introducing ivory as a support for British miniaturists, Peter Paul was apprenticed in his father’s studio from 1729. Like his father, he also worked on ivory, producing small, somewhat naïve portraits in his father’s style.

This enamel by Peter Paul is rather more successful than his works on ivory and compares extremely well with enamel portraits of the early 18th century by masters of the art such as Rouquet and Zincke. It may in fact represent a period of his life hitherto unknown, as to attain such knowledge of the enamelling technique he must have been apprenticed to a professional enameller.

This discovery is rather at odds with contemporary descriptions of Peter Paul as a ‘reprobate’ , his reputation somewhat cemented by his membership of a ‘hell-fire’ club in Ireland called The Blasters. He seems to have joined this club during his time in Dublin from 1737-1738. Despite his lack of social graces and rebellious nature, Vertue notes his talent in calling him ‘An Ingenious Youth’ . He seems to have left Ireland in disgrace, after his ‘vile, athestical conversations and behaviour, publickly practised (for some wicked blasphemous affair in Ireland)’

This charming enamel dates from circa 1740 and it is possibly the product of a hard-won commission via his father or his master to re-establish Lens as an artist after his Irish disgrace. It certainly cements his reputation as an artist of some talent, particularly in the difficult method of enamelling, and may be the basis on which other enamels are reattributed to him.
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