Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Colonel John Russell (d.1687), 1833, after William Dobson (bap.1611-1646) 

Henry Bone RA (1755-1834)

Colonel John Russell (d.1687), 1833, after William Dobson (bap.1611-1646), Henry Bone RA
19th Century
Rectangular, 5 x 4 ins. (12.6cm x 10.2cm)
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This bold portrait enamel by Henry Pierce Bone depicts the Royalist officer Colonel John Russell, and is after the original by William Dobson in the collection of the Spencer family at Althorp.

Henry Pierce Bone was the son of the great Georgian enamellist Henry Bone, whose style and technique he closely emulated. On the death of his father, Henry took the mantle as a leading enamellist, and in 1833, when this work was painted, he was appointed ‘Enamel Painter to His Majesty and the Duchess of Kent and Princess Victoria’, a title he proudly inscribed on the reverse of this work.

The portrait on which this enamel was based is in the collection of the Earls Spencer at Althrorp, and was painted by the English baroque portraitist William Dobson. Dobson was based in the Royalist stronghold Oxford during the Civil War, where he painted a number of portraits of the leading Cavaliers, including, most likely, the Althorp portrait.

John Russell was the third son of Francis Russell, 4th Earl of Bedford and Catherine Brydes. In 1641 Russell entered parliament and although his father supported the Parliamentarians, Russell remained a staunch Royalist during the English Civil War period, and commanded a regiment of foot under Prince Rupert from 1643. Following their defeat at the Battle of Naseby, and the subsequent loss of Bristol city, Rupert was dismissed at the regiment was disbanded. Following the Restoration, Charles II appointed Russell colonel of the newly raised ‘His Majesty’s Foot Regiment of Guards’, which in 1665 was amalgamated to form a larger regiment of twenty-four companies commanded by Russell.

Henry appears to have received a great deal of patronage from the Spencer family around this time, and between 1833 and 1838, Henry exhibited six portraits depicting either members of the family of copies of paintings in their collection at Althorp.

The technique of enamelling is largely understated in present day but it was a process which was extremely time consuming, temperamental and precise, some works taking as long as three years to complete. Initially the enamellist would make a sketch of the work to the size he wanted to produce in enamel, frequently relying on a series of grids to ensure accuracy, and then he would transfer the outline onto a prepared piece of enamel and fire it so it fixed to the surface. After each stage of colouring the enamel would be fired according to the colour’s required temperature. The process was by nature very risky and Benjamin Haydon noted in his diary on Henry Bone the elder’s nervous twitch; ‘as if he was always watching a bit of ivory in the furnace for fear it should crack!’
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