David Paton (fl.1660-95)
This plumbago survives in its original frame which is likely to have been made by George Manjoy...
This plumbago portrait of a gentleman in armour was painted by the renowned Scottish artist David Paton.
Paton is best known for his work in the medium of plumbago and spent his entire career working in his native Scotland where he painted various nobility and produced copies of existing portraits ‘in little’. A fine example of Paton’s talent for replicating can be seen in his copy of Samuel Cooper’s limning of Charles II [Ham House] painted just three years after the original in 1668.
Paton was clearly well received amongst the Scottish nobility as both friend and employee, and when the Hon. William Tollemache, youngest son of Duchess of Lauderdale, embarked on the Grand Tour in the late 1670s Paton was asked to accompany him.
The origin of the art of plumbago can be traced back to post-restoration England when the print makers returned from exile to resume their trade and started to discover a market eager for the originals on which their prints were based. As the art form became more established, artists like Paton found a speciality in producing plumbagos and in fact more or less avoided the print-making process all together. Paton, like all plumbago artists, understood the importance of line and contrast making the shift between mediums a natural one, and such artists reproduced their plumbagos as prints as well as designing title and frontispiece pages for books. The word plumbago generally refers to the carbon, also known as graphite or ‘black lead’ used to draw these small portraits, but also serves as an umbrella term for monochromatic works in Indian ink on vellum.
The case in which this plumbago is set appears to be the original and is stamped on the reverse with the maker's mark ‘GM’, probably for George Manjoy. Manjoy was one of a few ‘toy men’ working in London in the late seventeenth century who specialised in making small silver objects or toys, often to decorate the interiors of exquisite dollhouses. It is very rare to see a miniature case stamped with a makers mark, and it is a poignant reflection of the value and importance of these small portraits to the person who commissioned them.