Historical Portraits Picture Archive

A Young Boy, in blue coat with slashed sleeves to reveal white, red cloak and lace cravat, long curling powdered hair 1686

Nicholas Dixon (1645-1708)

A Young Boy, in blue coat with slashed sleeves to reveal white, red cloak and lace cravat, long curling powdered hair, Nicholas Dixon
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Watercolour on vellum
17th Century
Oval, 27mm (1 1/16ins) high
 
Provenance:
Christie's, London, 18 November 1969, lot 16 (125gns. to Limner). English Private Collection.
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Nicholas Dixon succeeded the short tenure held by Richard Gibson, following the long career of Samuel Cooper, as king’s limner to Charles II in 1673. Despite his obscure origins and apparent intermittent poverty (he is documented as paying the ‘poor rate’ from his London home in the 1670s) he belongs, in style and quality, to the small, distinctive circle of Restoration court miniaturists.

Dixon was not only the king’s limner but also the keeper of the King’s Picture Closet and as such had access to the royal collection of paintings. With admittance to this rich resource, Dixon reinvigorated the art of the cabinet miniature so ably begun by Isaac and Peter Oliver. In 1678 he had lost his royal appointment to Peter Cross (c.1645-1724) and Dixon’s work thereafter is often viewed as a decline from his glittering court career, ending with a lottery of his cabinet miniatures in 1698 that failed to attract public interest.

The dark, almost black background in the present work would have been used to emphasize the luminosity of the reds and blues and as a device is particularly successful on a small scale. The boy’s identity remains unknown although it would no doubt have been commissioned by a family member or close friend given its intimacy.
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