Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait miniature of an Officer of an British or East India Company regiment, wearing scarlet coat with buff facings, silver lace epaulette and bicorn hat 

Jeremiah Meyer RA (1735–1789)

Portrait miniature of an Officer of an British or East India Company regiment, wearing scarlet coat with buff facings, silver lace epaulette and bicorn hat, Jeremiah Meyer RA
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Watercolour on ivory
18th Century
Oval, 48mm (1 7/8 in) high
 
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Jeremiah Meyer was born in Germany and moved to England at an early age, settling in London. His early training was with the enamellist Christian Friedrich Zincke and was one of the first miniaturists to really exploit the medium of ivory, using transparent washes to allow the delicate tones of the ivory to show luminescent through the paint. Indeed so thin is the ivory in the present example that when it was previously mounted into a gold box, the goldsmith inserted a piece of gold foil which, when placed behind the ivory, gave it a glowing albeit sadly quite yellowish appearance.

Meyer was the oldest of a group of artists, including Richard Cosway, John Smart and Richard Crosse, all born around the same date, who took lessons at William Shipley 's new drawing school, the first such school in London. After his expensive apprenticeship with Zincke, it seems that he also spent time at the informal St. Martin's Lane 'Academy' run by William Hogarth. As one of the founder members of the Royal Academy, which opened in 1769, Meyer was one of a new generation of miniaturists who would present their art form in direct competition with oil painters. In 1764, Meyer was appointed miniature painter to Queen Charlotte and painter in enamel to King George III and a decade later, in 1774, one critic noted ‘[His] miniatures excell all others in pleasing Expression, Variety of Tints and Freedom of Execution’.

This sensitive depiction of an officer wearing a bicorn hat was probably commissioned by the sitter’s wife to wear. The wearer of such a miniature may have derived some comfort from its presence at times of separation through war or even death. Queen Charlotte wore a portrait miniature of George III, most likely by also by Jeremiah Meyer, set into a gold bracelet clasp frame with a pearl bracelet at their wedding and continued to wear the same bracelet into old age.
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