Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait miniature of a Lady, wearing ochre-coloured dress, her hair bound with a blue ribbon, she leans on an anchor, blue curtain and column background, a ship in the distance 

 English School 

Portrait miniature of a Lady, wearing ochre-coloured dress, her hair bound with a blue ribbon, she leans on an anchor, blue curtain and column background, a ship in the distance,  English School
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Watercolour on ivory
19th Century
Rectangular (with rounded corners), 25 mm. (1 in.) high
 
Provenance:
Private English collection
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This tiny brooch portrays a young lady waiting for her sea-faring lover or husband to safely return. She leans on an anchor, a symbol of hope, but also entirely appropriate to the ship sailing away in the background of this tiny image, a ship that presumably carries her lover or husband. The column behind the figure represents constancy and steadfastness, suggesting that the subject of the miniature will remain loyal.

The composition of the miniature is perhaps inspired by earlier portraits of Emma Hamilton (circa 1765-1815), Nelsonís lover, painted by George Romney as ĎAriadneí . Here, Emma is shown with her hands clasped and, in the final version of this painting by Romney, with a ship out to sea in the distance. It is unclear who Emma was pining for, as she was yet to become romantically involved with Nelson, but it has been suggested that she was moping for the artist himself or George Greville, who she was shortly to marry. In 1787, George Romney painted Mrs. Crouch, who was portrayed as pining for her husband, recently gone to sea, while she was conducting an affair with the Irish tenor Michael Kelly, showing that such displays of constancy were not always what they seemed.

The dress of the sitter in this miniature can be dated to circa 1805, when Neoclassical clothing and hairstyles were extremely fashionable. The pose of the sitter in profile is a further nod to this taste.
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