Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait miniature of a Lady of the Fitzgerald family 

Jeremiah Meyer RA (1735–1789)

Portrait miniature of a Lady of the Fitzgerald family, Jeremiah Meyer RA
Watercolour on ivory
18th Century
Oval, 45 mm (1 ¾ inches) high
Reed & Son; The Leveson-Gower family; Thence by descent.
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Victorian pearl and old-cut diamond-set pendant frame.

Born in Germany, Meyer moved to England at an early age and settled in London. He was one of the first miniaturists to really exploit the medium of ivory, using transparent washes to allow the delicate tones of the ivory to show luminescent through the paint.

Meyer was the oldest of a group of artists, including Richard Cosway, John Smart and Richard Crosse, all born around the same date, who took lessons at William Shipley 's new drawing school, the first such school in London. After his expensive apprenticeship with Zincke, it seems that he also spent time at the informal St. Martin's Lane 'Academy' run by William Hogarth. As one of the founder members of the Royal Academy, which opened in 1769, Meyer was one of a new generation of miniaturists who would present their art form in direct competition with oil painters

In 1764, Meyer was appointed miniature painter to Queen Charlotte and painter in enamel to King George III. This secured his place as primary miniaturist for the royal family and improved his ability to secure from this position he was much in demand. This size in portrait miniatures is extremely rare at this date and suggests an expensive commission of importance.

According to family tradition, this portrait miniature was thought to depict Stephanie Caroline Anne Fitzgerald (née Sym) (d.1831), however, given that Meyer died in 1789, and the lady seen here appears to be around forty years of age, this cannot be the case. A more plausible identification would be Lady Emelia Mary Fitzgerald (née Lennox) (1731-1814), wife of Lt.-Gen. James Fitzgerald, 1st Duke of Leinster (1722-73). When Lt. Gen. Fitzgerald died in 1773, Lady Fitzgerald would have been around forty years of age - corresponding to the apparent age of the present sitter, who is also shown in mourning.
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