Richard Gibson (1615-90)
The present work is a particularly fine example of Gibson’s talented hand – the thickly-applied paint used in a confident manner but modified for details such as the fine lace cravat...
Previously attributed to Charles Beale junior, this portrait miniature displays typical characteristics of the hand of Richard Gibson (known as ‘Dwarf Gibson’ in his circle). Gibson’s palette typically included a rich blend of browns and ochre, the gouache applied using a thick impasto.
Gibson worked as an apprentice in a tapestry works at Mortlake, before entering the household of Philip Herbert 4th Earl of Pembroke. By 1639 he was employed in the court as a ‘Page of the Back-Stairs’, experiencing great popularity with the King. Through the catalogue of Abraham van der Doort, keeper of the royal collection, we know that by this point Gibson was actively painting, for the former recounts the artist copying ‘the Picture of Adonis Venus Cupid and some doggs by Peter Oliver after Titian’. Following Pembroke’s death, Gibson attached himself to Charles, 2nd Earl of Carnarvon, Pembroke’s grandson, and throughout the Interregnum painted many people of that circle including Lady Elizabeth Dormer [V&A] and Elizabeth, Countess of Carnarvon [Scottish National Portrait Gallery; exhibited at Philip Mould & Co ‘Warts and All’ 2013 no.37]. By the Restoration Gibson was tremendously successful and by the late 1660s he changed his signature from ‘DG’, for ‘Dwarf’ or maybe ‘Dick’ to ‘RG’ for Richard, a pertinent display of his new status. After Cooper’s death Gibson was pronounced the King’s Limner, however one year later was succeeded by Nicholas Dixon, and appointed drawing-master to the Duke of York’s daughters.
The present work is a particularly fine example of Gibson’s talented hand – the thickly-applied paint used in a confident manner but modified for details such as the fine lace cravat. Although the sitter in this work is unknown, Gibson used his connections at court to attract many important patrons. Many sitters at the time may also have been intrigued by the unusual combination of his artistic talents and his dwarfism. His close relationship with the court oil portraitist Sir Peter Lely instructed both his painting techniques and the seriousness with which he was taken as an artist.