Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait miniature of General Sir William Henry Pringle (b.c.1771-1840), wearing scarlet coat with silver lace, the order of the Bath on his chest, his hair powdered and worn en queue 

Andrew Plimer (c.1763-1837)

Portrait miniature of General Sir William Henry Pringle (b.c.1771-1840), wearing scarlet coat with silver lace, the order of the Bath on his chest, his hair powdered and worn en queue, Andrew Plimer
Zoom
Watercolour on ivory
18th Century
Oval, 2 7/8 in (74 mm) high
 
Provenance:
English Private Collection.
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There has been some confusion in the past regarding the biographical details of Pringle, not helped by an incorrect inscription on the reverse of the ivory which supposedly (although not seen by the present author) claims he died at the Battle of Salamanca on 22nd July 1812. This can most likely be explained by a misunderstood article published in The Examiner in August 1812 listing all those killed and wounded, in which Pringle is referred to as having taken over a brigade of the 5th division after Lieutenant General James Leith was wounded. Pringle in fact had a much longer and successful career and he didn’t receive his Order of the Bath, which he is seen wearing here, until he was invested on 12th April 1815.

Pringle was brought up in Ireland, the first son of Major-General Henry Pringle and was educated at Trinity College, Dublin. In 1806 Pringle married Hester Harriet Eliot, daughter of the wealthy Cornishman Hon. Edward James Eliot (1758-1797) of Port Eliot and niece of William Pitt the younger. Following the Battle of Salamanca in 1812 Pringle was praised by the House of Commons and thanked for his bravery and again 1814 for his participation in the battles of the Pyrenees, Orthes and the Nivelle. In early 1814 Pringle was severely wounded in France, and Lord Eliot (uncle of his wife) wrote to Lord Liverpool on the subject of Pringle attaining his own regiment: ‘Few of his rank have been more in service, or have suffered more from it’ and by May Pringle obtained his much desired command.

As a politician Pringle also carved a successful path and between 1812-1818 he was M.P for St Germans and later between 1818-1832 for Liskeard; both local Boroughs to his wife’s family estate Port Eliot.

The present portrait miniature was most likely painted following Pringle’s award of the Order of the Bath in 1815 by which point Andrew Plimer had secured his position as one of the most prominent portrait miniature painters of his age. The large size of the ivory reflects his confidence as a painter and the careful hatching to create light and shade flaunts his technical abilities. Age has been kind to the present work, no doubt helped by its preservation in a sealed leather case, and the luminosity of the red jacket still remains along with the subtle rosy complexion visible on Pringle’s right cheek.

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