Historical Portraits Picture Archive

A portrait miniature of a Gentleman wearing a blue coat with gold border and buttons, striped waistcoat, white frilled cravat, gold tie pin and powdered hair worn en queue Gold frame. Signed with initials and dated ‘JS/1784’

John Smart (1741-1811)

A portrait miniature of a Gentleman wearing a blue coat with gold border and buttons, striped waistcoat, white frilled cravat, gold tie pin and powdered hair worn en queue, John Smart
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Watercolour on ivory
18th Century
Oval, 1 9/16 inches, 4cm high
 
Provenance:
G. Selby, Blenheim Antiques, London 29th June1978
John Smart was arguably the greatest portrait miniature painter of the mid-late eighteenth century. In terms of both style and characterization he was wholeheartedly original and his importance can hardly be overstated.
In 1755, at the age of thirteen, Smart began to enter pencil and chalk drawings for prizes at the Society of Arts. After coming second to Richard Cosway in the first competition he went on to secure first prize in the following three. These early years provided Smart with the necessary confidence, contacts and drive, and in 1765 he was elected Fellow Royal Society of Artists (FSA), becoming director in 1772, Vice-President in 1777 and finally President in 1778, a position he held until the society’s liquidation.
The eighteenth century was a highly prosperous period for the miniature painter which also saw the success of Cosway and Engleheart to name just a few. Unlike his main competitors who chose to paint their subjects with exaggerated flair and swagger, Smart was more restrained and his work more sensitive in approach. So delicate in fact was Smart’s style by the time the present work was painted that his brushstrokes are barely visible to the naked eye, which give his sitter’s a uniquely smooth and humanistic appearance in their faces.
The present work of an unidentified gentleman was painted just prior to Smart’s departure to India in 1785. Striped waistcoats of varying design were very much in vogue during this period, another notable advocate of the fashion being the miniaturist Edward Miles as observed in his portrait by William Beechey painted in 1785 [Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art].
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.