Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of a Gentleman, wearing a brown jacket with three silver buttons and a white stock, his hair powdered 

Samuel Shelley (1750-1808)

Portrait of a Gentleman, wearing a brown jacket with three silver buttons and a white stock, his hair powdered, Samuel Shelley
Watercolour on ivory
18th Century
Oval, 1 6/8 inches, 4.5cm high
To view portrait miniatures currently for sale at Philip Mould & Co, please go to www.philipmould.com.

Samuel Shelley was a native of London and followed a relatively conventional route into his chosen career and after winning the much coveted premium prize awarded annually by the Society of Arts at the age of fourteen, Shelley entered the Royal Academy Schools on 21st March 1774.

Shelley was a founding member of the first watercolour society in 1805, believing that watercolours should be given their own forum and exhibition space in order to be properly appreciated. Before the formation of such a society, watercolours could only be shown next to oils at the conventional exhibition spaces of the Society of Artists or Royal Academy. This new separation from brightly coloured, large oil paintings allowed watercolours to be viewed among paintings in the same media and heralded a new admiration of such work. Shelley’s desire to compete with oil paintings also led him to produce small watercolour subject pictures to exhibit alongside the portrait miniatures he painted all his life.

Shelley worked at the court, although he never attained an official position there. He was most financially successful with his portrait miniatures and sold far fewer of his small subject pictures. He lived in London all his life, dying at his home in Hanover Square in 1808.

Like many portrait miniature painters of the day, Shelley was highly talented in other fields and drew book illustrations as well as oil paintings and engravings. His ability working in oils can sometimes be seen reflected ‘in little’ and the majority of his miniatures are characterised by a heavier use of gum which often give the effect of oil paint, as seen in the jacket of the unknown gentleman in the present work.
Philip Mould Ltd, 18-19 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5LU.Copyright Philip Mould Ltd.