Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait miniature of John Reid, 1796 

George Engleheart (1750/3-1829)

Portrait miniature of John Reid, 1796, George Engleheart
Watercolour on ivory
18th Century
Oval, 2 1/8 in. (54 mm.) high
Mrs Willis of Halinend, Streatham Common (in 1865); The Property of The D'Anyers Willis Will Trust; English Private Collection.
G. Williamson/H. L. D. Engleheart, George Engleheart 1750-1829 Miniature Painter to George III, London, 1902, p. 111.
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Gilt-metal frame, the reverse with gold initials ‘JR’ on plaited ground, later brooch attachment in later red case

George Engleheart is notable for a number of reasons, not least because he is one of the very few artists who was capable of producing such a large output whilst being able to maintain such an unbelievable level of quality.

Engleheart was born in Kew and studied at the Royal Academy Schools under Reynolds and the landscape painter George Barret. His skill and industry as a miniaturist appealed to George III, and in 1789 he was appointed Miniature Painter to the King, painting at least twenty-five portraits of the monarch and many others of the royal family.

Engleheart’s style was quite decorative, which flattered his sitters and as a result there was great demand for his work. His fee books, from 1775 to 1813, record, over a period of nearly forty years, no less than 4,853 miniatures (2,000 in the 1780’s alone). His style developed gradually over a long career that can be divided into three periods. During his early phase of about five years his miniatures were small and in the ‘modest school’ style before he really developed his own technique. By the 1780’s, his middle phase, he had gained in confidence and his characteristic and highly accomplished style evolved. His sitters were painted with large deep eyes and a cool flesh tone. After about 1795, Engleheart painted on larger ivories, and the familiar oval shape was frequently abandoned in favour of a rectangle. He often used a more somber palette to model his sitters’ features and the portraits became more honest and less flamboyant.

We can tell through studying Engleheart’s account books that John Reid sat for this portrait in 1796, and although we sadly know very little about his life, an original letter in the lid of the case reads:

‘This miniature represents/my dearest uncle, John Reid/& belongs to Mrs. Willis of/Halinend – M.H. Feilden -/Streatham Common/ May 18th 1865-/Painted by Engleheart’.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.