Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait miniature of George Herbert Griffies Williams (1818-1833), wearing dark blue coat and waistcoat with brass buttons, 1833 

Called 'Herman' (fl.c.1820-40)

Portrait miniature of George Herbert Griffies Williams (1818-1833), wearing dark blue coat and waistcoat with brass buttons, 1833, Called 'Herman'
Watercolour on ivory
19th Century
Circular, 35mm (1 3/8in) diam.
M. Baker, A Royal Home in Wales: Llwynywermod, Accent Press, Mid Glamorgan, 2008. p.56-57.
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Set into a Swiss-made enamelled locket mount, probably by Bautte & Cie or Rossel Fils, the front cover decorated with the arms of John George Griffies-Williams (1794-1835) and foliate design in black and gold, the back case with similar foliate design in black and gold cuvette, also decorated with enamel, the interior with central aperture glazed to reveal lock of brown hair and engraved ‘GEO. HERBERT GRIFFIES WILLIAMS · OB: JUNE 15th 1833 OETAT: 15 YEARS, 5 MONTHS AND 21 DAYS ·’

The present example embodies the use of portrait miniatures as part of the mourning process in the early nineteenth century. Disguised as a watch, with the family coat of arms exquisitely enamelled, this miniature would have been worn by a man, most likely the father of this young boy. George’s father was Sir George Griffies Williams of Llwynywermod in the parish of Myddfai in the county of Carmarthen. Although George Griffies Williams died in his fifteenth year, the miniature dates from earlier in his life and shows him as a young boy of perhaps four or five years of age. The lock of hair enclosed within the locket is a vivid reminder of the deceased, whilst the interior engraving records the sitter’s exact life span (“… 5 months and 21 days…”) in heartrendingly accurate detail. The expensive commissioned enamelled ‘watch case’ mount is testament to the care taken in preserving the memory of the sitter.

As Schidlof (1964) suggests, the artist ‘Herman’ may have been wholly resident in England. Schidlof records several sitters for this artist, all of whom were English, including one of a ‘Mr. F. A. Molesworth’ which was exhibited at the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum) in 1865. A very similar portrait miniature of a young Englishman was recently sold by an American dealer signed simply ‘Herman’ and dated 1836.
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