Henry Jacob Burch Junior (b.1763)
This British army officer, either an ensign or a lieutenant, would have served during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars...
As objects that could be held in the palm of one’s hand, miniatures could serve as highly personal tokens of affection or remembrances of loved ones absent for significant periods of time. It is for this reason that portrait miniatures depicting military personnel are some of the most emotive.
This work portrays an unidentified officer of the British army, and was almost certainly painted in 1790s during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. The single epaulette on the subject’s right shoulder denotes that he was a subaltern officer – either an ensign or a lieutenant.
Henry Jacob Burch was one of the artists who worked to preserve the likenesses of those who worked to assist the expansion of the British Empire in its formative years. Himself the son of a miniaturist, Burch attended the Royal Academy Schools from 1779 – he began at the tender age of sixteen – and proceeded to exhibit at the Society of Artists and Royal Academy of Arts from 1787 until 1834. Unlike his father, Burch never became an Academician; however, this did not stop him from becoming a major rival to some of the most highly sought-after miniaturists of his day.
Burch’s work is represented in the national museum collections; the Victoria and Albert Museum owns miniatures by his hand and the British Museum possesses a volume of engravings after his portraits. The confident expression of this sitter, conveyed through great economy of means, reflects the experience and assurance of Burch’s hand.