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Zoomable Image of Portrait enamel of a Gentleman, wearing a brown coat and white chemise, his hair bewigged and powdered, c.1740

Portrait enamel of a Gentleman, wearing a brown coat and white chemise, his hair bewigged and powdered, c.1740

William Prewett (fl.1735-55)

Portrait enamel of a Gentleman, wearing a brown coat and white chemise, his hair bewigged and powdered, c.1740

William Prewett (fl.1735-55)

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Price:

£1,200

Materials:

Enamel

Dimensions:

Oval 1 3/4 in (45 mm) high

Provenance:

Sotheby’s, London, ‘Silver, Portrait Miniatures and Objects of Vertu’ 6th November 1997, lot 210

Frame:

Silver frame with pierced spiral cresting

Prewett's work is rare but shows a wide group of patrons, including King George II, Frederick the Prince of Wales, and Horace Walpole as a young man...

This portrait enamel of an unknown gentleman is typical of William Prewett’s modest oeuvre. It not only establishes his adeptness to produce honest, rather than prettified, likenesses but also demonstrates his skill in creating subtle chiaroscuro across skin tones, through a highly challenging medium - enamel.

Enamel painting in England was first practised by Petitot, a French goldsmith, during the reign of Charles I and became popular again in the 1680s with the work of Charles Boit, master of Christian Friedrich Zincke with whom William Prewett trained. William Prewett was working at the height of enamel painting in the 1740s, a time when British artists such as William Hogarth, one of the greatest character painters of the eighteenth century, were reclaiming a predominately European art market. One cannot help but draw parallels between William Prewett’s work and portraits by William Hogarth of this date.

William Prewett (or Prewitt) was born in Suffolk and trained in the studio of the German enamellist Christian Friedrich Zincke. His work is rare but shows a wide group of patrons, including King George II and Frederick, Prince of Wales [Royal Collection], and Horace Walpole as a young man [Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry]. The Victoria and Albert Museum houses an ambitious family group by Prewett depicting Mr. and Mrs. Knight with her son, Mr. Newsham. This group further establishes Prewett’s connection to Zincke, who also worked for the family.

Although relatively simple in composition, Prewett in this portrait enamel meticulously details the likeness of a wigged, middle-aged man whose coat is left open to create a less formal portrait and an air of familiarity. Portraits by William Prewett belong to several public collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Royal Collection.

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