Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait miniatures of Philip Allen (1736-1785), and his wife Sarah Maria Cartaret (1736-1785) 

Jeremiah Meyer RA (1735–1789)

Portrait miniatures of Philip Allen (1736-1785), and his wife Sarah Maria Cartaret (1736-1785), Jeremiah Meyer RA
18th Century
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Philip Allen: Enamel
Sarah Maria Cartaret: Watercolour on ivory

Philip Allen: Oval, 3.5cm high
Sarah Maria Cartaret: Oval, 4.5cm high

Both set in gold frames with diamond borders, Philip Allen miniature is attached to a nine strand seed pearl bracelet with functional clasp.

Sarah Maria Cartaret miniature inscribed on reverse ‘THE WIFE OF PHILIP ALLEN/ (THE 2ND) NEE DE CARTARET./ RALPH – PHILIP – PHILIP’

Philip Allen (1736-1785), of Bathampton Manor, Somerset, is shown here depicted in a rare example of an enamel miniature by Jeremiah Meyer. Dressed in French fashion, typical of the 1750s and 1760s, hair curled to the sides and tied back with a black ribbon and wearing a floral cravat, this gentleman’s attire is similar in style to that worn by his wife, Sarah Maria Cartaret.

Philip Allen, the eldest son of Philip Allen of Bathampton and Jane Benett of the village of Maperton, was the Comptroller of the Bye and Cross Road Letter Office and a Surveyor to the Postmaster General, at the General Post Office in London from 1764, presumably in the employ of his uncle, the philanthropist and postal entrepreneur Ralph Allen (1693-1764), of Prior Park, Bath.

Little is known about Philip Allen’s wife, Sarah Maria Cartaret, other than that she was the daughter of Captain James Cartaret and gave birth to ten children; she died in 1819. She is painted here by Meyer in fashionable attire of the early 1760s, including a pearl choker, her hair decorated with pearls, ribbons and flowers, pinned close to the head in what was known as a pompom in France, after Madame de Pompadour, the famous mistress of Louis XV.

Philip married Sarah Maria Cartaret on 15th November 1763. This portrait commission, almost certainly undertaken to celebrate the couple’s marriage, would have been an important outlay for Allen, as Meyer’s enamels were exquisite but expensive. Allen was not quite as generous when it came to his wife’s portrait, whose miniature by Meyer (which remains as a pair with this enamel), was painted in the less expensive medium of watercolour on ivory. Allen may have been inspired by the commission from King George III, who requested an enamel portrait of himself from Meyer as a gift to his future wife, Charlotte, daughter of the Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in 1761. Later, as Queen, the bracelet is shown on her wrist in various oil portraits, including in the 1789 portrait of her by Sir Thomas Lawrence. Allen’s choice of enamel may have been influenced by the durability of the material when worn as jewellery.

As well as being a founding member of the Royal Academy of Arts, Jeremiah Meyer was also miniature painter to Queen Charlotte and enamellist to George III. Although Meyer was born in Württemberg in 1735, he was brought to England by his father at the age of 12 and trained under Christian Friedrich Zincke, the leading enamellist of the eighteenth century, from 1757 for two years. Zincke had retired from his own work in 1746 as his eyesight was deteriorating.

Meyer soon exceeded his master’s skill by paying particular attention to the work of Joshua Reynolds and trying to incorporate elements of his figurative style into his own miniatures. It is thought that Meyer trained at Hogarth’s informal academy on St Martin’s Lane for a brief time. In 1761 he was awarded with a gold medal from the Society of Arts for producing a profile of George III from memory and in 1764 was made miniature painter and enamellist to King George III and Queen Charlotte. The previous year, in 1763, Meyer had married Barbara Marsden who as a child won numerous awards for her decorative designs from the Society of Arts.

Meyer became the director of the Incorporated Society of Artists in 1765 and exhibited as an academician at the Royal Academy of Arts from 1769-1778 and again in 1783. Jeremiah Meyer was a good friend of George Romney who painted the Meyer family on his return from Italy. Whereas many miniaturists in the latter half of the 18th century commenced their careers as watercolourists on ivory and worked with enamels at a later stage, Meyer reversed this tradition. He died at Kew on 20th January 1789.
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