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Zoomable Image of Portrait miniature of Jane Baldwin (1763-1839), wearing pink dress and white fichu, her hair powdered, black hat with large ostrich feather, large sapphire drop earring

Portrait miniature of Jane Baldwin (1763-1839), wearing pink dress and white fichu, her hair powdered, black hat with large ostrich feather, large sapphire drop earring

Andrew Plimer 1763-1837

Portrait miniature of Jane Baldwin (1763-1839), wearing pink dress and white fichu, her hair powdered, black hat with large ostrich feather, large sapphire drop earring

Andrew Plimer 1763-1837

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Price:

Reserved

Materials:

Watercolour on ivory

Dimensions:

2 in (51 mm) high

Provenance:

European Private Collection

Literature:

R. Walker, Regency Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, 1985 (as ‘undated’)

Exhibited:

South Kensington Exhibition, 1865 (no.217, lent by C.B. Carruthers)

Inscriptions:

signed with initials ‘AP’ and dated ‘1785’

Frame:

Later gold frame with paste border, the reverse inscribed ‘Mrs. Baldwin/ born in Greece/ 1755 [sic]/ wife of the Consul/ of Egypt/ a celebrated Beauty/ The “Greek/ travelled Lady”/ of ??Dr. Johnson/ ad.???

Once in London she was received with great excitement by the public and particularly by the aristocratic circle surrounding the Prince of Wales. Her devotees, as noted on the reverse of the present miniature, extended to Dr. Johnson who asked permission to kiss her...

Jane Baldwin was the daughter of the merchant William Maltass, merchant of the Levant Company and his wife, Margaret Icard. Born in Smyrna (now Izmir in Turkey), she was a celebrated beauty who had no shortage of admirers. Known as the ‘pretty Greek’ (or, as written on the reverse of this miniature, the ‘Greek travelled Lady’), Mrs. Baldwin employed her exotic background and looks to great effect.[1] Her celebrity status gained her access to the centre of aristocratic society and she wore Persian-derived costume to balls hosted by the King. She was painted in this costume in 1782 by Sir Joshua Reynolds, just a few years after this portrait miniature was painted by Andrew Plimer.[2]


In this portrait by Plimer Mrs. Baldwin is dressed as a fashionable London lady, the one concession to her colourful status her exceptionally large sapphire earrings. This portrait shows her after her marriage to George Baldwin (1744-1826) in 1779 (she was sixteen to his thirty-five), who became British Consul-General in Egypt. Jane’s father William was her husband’s agent. After their marriage they travelled to Vienna where they were received by the British Ambassador Robert Murray Keith. Even here she was admired for her striking looks, Emperor Joseph commissioning a bust of her by the sculptor Cerroschi before her departure for London in 1781. Once in London she was received with great excitement by the public and particularly by the aristocratic circle surrounding the Prince of Wales. Her devotees, as noted on the reverse of the present miniature, extended to Dr. Johnson who asked permission to kiss her.

This portrait would have been an important commission for Plimer, who had set up independently from his master, Richard Cosway, in the year that this portrait was painted. The Cosways and Baldwins socialised together, Baldwin fascinated by the artist’s keen interest in the therapeutic powers of magnetism. Cosway also painted Mrs. Baldwin, his 1782 full-length portrait turned into a print by Francesco Bartolozzi (as ‘A Portrait of a Lady in Grecian Dress’). The public were hungry for images of her, but the present portrait was not engraved and was more likely a private commission after an introduction via the more established Cosway to his young protegee. It is interesting that here Mrs. Baldwin eschews the ‘oriental’ style costume that made her such a distinctive personality within the glittering orbit of later eighteenth century high society. This is possibly the portrait that launched the long and successful career of Andrew Plimer, establishing him as a viable alternative to his master Richard Cosway.



[1] The diary of Mrs Hester Lynch Thrale notes; ‘This pretty Greek as we call her’ (Thraliana; the diary of Mrs. Hester Lynch Thrale, pub 1951, Vol.1, pp.530-531)
[2] The portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds now hangs at Compton Verney House (purchased from the trustees of the Bowood Collection, Sotheby’s, London, July 2004, lot 8)

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