Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait miniature of an Officer of a Royal regiment of Foot, wearing scarlet coat with dark blue facings and gold lace, the lace loops on his lapels square-ended 

George Engleheart (1750/3-1829)

Portrait miniature of an Officer of a Royal regiment of Foot, wearing scarlet coat with dark blue facings and gold lace, the lace loops on his lapels square-ended, George Engleheart
Watercolour on ivory
Oval, 35mm (1.4 ins.) high
Private Collection, Vienna.
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Original gold bracelet clasp frame, the reverse with exhibition label (illegible).

This engaging portrait miniature of an unknown officer, datable to around 1780, is set into its original bracelet clasp. Engleheartís skill and fluency can be fully appreciated in this particularly well preserved painting, with colours almost as fresh and vivid as they would have been in the eighteenth century. It is likely that the bracelet containing this portrait was worn by the sitterís wife, a fashion endorsed by Queen Charlotte, wife of George III. Queen Charlotte was given a miniature of her husband as a wedding present from George III; this romantic and extremely personal gesture allowed the queen to be with her husband always (even if sometimes only in miniature form).
Engleheart ranks among Smart, Cosway, and Humphry as one of the most talented miniaturists active in Georgian England. Engleheart was the third surviving son of a German plaster-modeller, Francis Engleheart, born in Kew, London, in 1750, with an innate creative ambition inherited from his father. His artistic verve helped him to carve a successful and extraordinarily prolific career as an accomplished miniaturist. According to his fee-books, now in private hands, he produced some 4,853 portrait miniatures on ivory during his lifetime, many of which depicting notable members of Londonís high society.
He began his professional training in 1769, when he was admitted to the Royal Academy Schools in London, where he started as the first pupil of the Irish landscape artist George Barret (c.1730 - 1784). He shortly moved on to become an apprentice of sorts, working under the supervision of the celebrated portrait painter, Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792). He absorbed stylistic and technical influence from his master by meticulously copying his portraits in miniature. Indeed, his subsequent miniatures betray glimmers of those stylistic and compositional devices absorbed during his early years of imitation. During the period from 1773 to 1822, Engleheart exhibited selected works from his growing inventory at the Academy.
The skill and virtuosity apparent in his work attracted the attention of King George III who, in 1789, employed him as his Pictor Primus. This honour awarded him an abundance of commissions, some twenty-five from the monarch and royal family alone, and he henceforth built up a robust following of loyal patrons.
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