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Zoomable Image of Portrait miniature of a Lady, identified as ‘Miss Byron’ wearing an ermine-trimmed blue dress slashed at the sleeves to reveal white and fastened with a jewel at the centre, her hair worn upswept with a hanging curl and decorated with an embroidered silk gauze falling at her back

Portrait miniature of a Lady, identified as ‘Miss Byron’ wearing an ermine-trimmed blue dress slashed at the sleeves to reveal white and fastened with a jewel at the centre, her hair worn upswept with a hanging curl and decorated with an embroidered silk gauze falling at her back

John Smart (1741-1811)

Portrait miniature of a Lady, identified as ‘Miss Byron’ wearing an ermine-trimmed blue dress slashed at the sleeves to reveal white and fastened with a jewel at the centre, her hair worn upswept with a hanging curl and decorated with an embroidered silk gauze falling at her back

John Smart (1741-1811)

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Price:

Price on request

Materials:

Watercolour on ivory

Dimensions:

Oval, 38mm (1 ½ in.) high

Provenance:

Karin Henninger-Tavcar, 1990; Private Collection, Germany.

Inscriptions:

Signed with initials and dated ‘J.S/1770’

Frame:

Diamond-edged gold frame and inscribed on the reverse ‘Portrait of/Miss Byron/by John Smart/signed J.S.1770’ in shagreen travelling case

The ermine trim of the sitter's gown may suggest she was the daughter or wife of a member of the aristocracy...

John Smart was one of the most distinguished portrait miniature painters of eighteenth century, Georgian society, renowned for his clarity of portrayal and delicacy of handling.

By the time this work was painted in 1770 Smart had distinguished himself as key figure in the London art scene and since 1755 had been a fellow of the Society of Artists. This example is a rare precursor of Smart’s refined style which he would later develop throughout the 1770s – a period in which some of his most accomplished works were painted.

Information on the sitter, who is identified on the reverse as ‘Miss Byron’, remains elusive, although the ermine-trimmed blue gown may perhaps suggest she was the daughter or wife of a member of the aristocracy.

In 1755, at the age of just thirteen, Smart began to enter pencil and chalk drawings for prizes at the Society of Arts. After coming second to Richard Cosway in the first competition he went on to secure first prize in the following three. Smart established his practice in 1760 from premises in Dean Street, Soho, and at this stage in his career was a rival to the equally young Richard Cosway but his miniatures are markedly different. His attention to detail and refusal to flatter meant his clientele came largely from the more conservative echelon of the affluent middle class. His practice appears to have been remarkably successful in a short time, with Smart securing a large numbers of sittings. His confidence and desire for recognition can be gauged by his initials appearing on even his earliest works.

Smart continued to gain much fame for his miniatures, moving to India in 1785 to secure new, wealthy clients. He came back to London in 1795 and quickly re-established himself as one of the most talented miniaturists in the country, exhibiting many works at the Royal Academy. He died after a short illness at his home in Russell Place, Fitzroy Square, London on the 1st May 1811.

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