Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait enamel of a Gentleman, wearing gilded armour and long powdered curling wig, c.1715 

Christian Friedrich Zincke (1683/4-1767)

Portrait enamel of a Gentleman, wearing gilded armour and long powdered curling wig, c.1715, Christian Friedrich Zincke
Enamel on copper
18th Century
Oval, 2 5/8 in. (68 mm.) high
Sir Jasper & Lady More, Linley Hall, Shropshire
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The present work is one of the most ambitiously large portrait enamels by Zincke, his rare monogram ostentatiously displayed on the obverse of the work. Unlike many enamellers, Zincke’s work was often painted ad vivum, with little reliance on copying existing oil paintings. This is testament to his great skill as an enameller, where the laborious process of firing and re-firing often constrained the artist to repetitive copies.

Dating to circa 1715, the prominent signature on this work may be an attempt on Zincke’s part to distinguish his work from that of Charles Boit (1662-1727), who had left England the year before for France. From 1714, Zincke was therefore the leading enameller in England and by the late 1720s was more or less continuously employed by the British royal family.

Boit, a native of Sweden, was celebrated for his large enamels, which presented vast technical difficulties. In 1706, Boit invited Zincke to England from Dresden, where he was already a trained enameller and became an able assistant. Boit’s aspirations became increasingly unrealistic as he attempted larger enamel compositions that were often doomed to failure. The best known of these, as recorded by George Vertue, was a large plaque to commemorate the Battle of Blenheim. According to Vertue it was to be ’22 (24) inches by 18 (16) inches which certainly is the largest plate known to be enamelled in England’. The plaque was doomed to remain an incomplete project, despite substantial financial investment and the construction of a kiln in ‘Mayfare’ London.

This sizeable portrait is therefore a rare addition to Zincke’s oeuvre shortly after the departure of his master Boit. Clearly mindful of the failures of Boit’s increasingly large commissions, Zincke’s portraits post 1714 are generally conservative in size, only increasing in scale (and then only rarely) during the later 1720s.

Although the sitter in this highly accomplished portrait enamel by Christian Zincke is unknown, it is comparable in composition and dress to the portrait of George II, as Prince of Wales in the Royal Collection, signed and dated 1717. Both sitters are portrayed in gilt-edged armour with scalloped breastplates, similar in style to that worn by John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough in his portraits after the Battle of Blenheim over ten years earlier. The armour worn is a clear indication of military prowess, George II being notoriously interested in warfare, himself the last British sovereign to fight alongside his soldiers (at the battle of Dettingen in 1743) when he was sixty years old.
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