This portrait of an unknown young boy by George Engleheart is a typically sensitive portrayal of youth by the artist. Engleheart’s portraits of his own children, many of which still remain with the family, are similarly considered and perceptive. It is likely that this miniature was commissioned by the sitter’s mother to be worn on the wrist as a constant reminder of her son. The sitter here is perhaps between six and eight years old and may have been sent away for schooling – it was in these times of absence when portrait miniatures became important, highly emotive reminders of a loved one. The garnet setting might also be a clue to the reason behind the commission, as this gemstone was often thought to have protective qualities associated with travel.

Engleheart is to be one of the most distinguished miniaturists of the late Georgian period alongside Cosway, Smart and Humphry, and was one of the most prolific miniaturists ever known....

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This portrait of an unknown young boy by George Engleheart is a typically sensitive portrayal of youth by the artist. Engleheart’s portraits of his own children, many of which still remain with the family, are similarly considered and perceptive. It is likely that this miniature was commissioned by the sitter’s mother to be worn on the wrist as a constant reminder of her son. The sitter here is perhaps between six and eight years old and may have been sent away for schooling – it was in these times of absence when portrait miniatures became important, highly emotive reminders of a loved one. The garnet setting might also be a clue to the reason behind the commission, as this gemstone was often thought to have protective qualities associated with travel.

Engleheart is to be one of the most distinguished miniaturists of the late Georgian period alongside Cosway, Smart and Humphry, and was one of the most prolific miniaturists ever known. Born in Kew, the son of a German plaster modeler, he studied at the Royal Academy Schools under Reynolds and the landscape painter George Barret. Engleheart’s skill and industry as a miniaturist appealed to George III, and in 1789 he was appointed Miniature Painter to the King. He painted at least twenty-five portraits of the King and many others of the royal family. He spent most of his career working in London where he built up an excellent reputation.

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500 Years of British Art