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We are grateful to Jacqui Ansell, Senior Lecturer Christie’s Education, for her commentary on men’s fashion which has been incorporated into this catalogue note.

The present portrait, likely representing a young gentleman of some means, was painted ten years into the Restoration of King Charles II. The miniature exudes wealth and luxury, expressed through the sitter’s appearance. From what we can see of the clothing, the sitter wears a version of a Roman-inspired tunic – with panes of golden fabric descending from the shoulders. Over this plain silk fabric of ultramarine blue forms ‘drapery’ rather than real ‘dress’. Since the era of Van Dyck and Lely male clothing (as well as female) had become a vehicle for painterly expressiveness, with a timeless appeal to draped clothing with classicising connotations overtaking the desire to be depicted in all the (ever-changing) up-to-date fashions of the times, which would soon make a portrait look out-of-date.

The young sitter also sports luscious...


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We are grateful to Jacqui Ansell, Senior Lecturer Christie’s Education, for her commentary on men’s fashion which has been incorporated into this catalogue note.

The present portrait, likely representing a young gentleman of some means, was painted ten years into the Restoration of King Charles II. The miniature exudes wealth and luxury, expressed through the sitter’s appearance. From what we can see of the clothing, the sitter wears a version of a Roman-inspired tunic – with panes of golden fabric descending from the shoulders. Over this plain silk fabric of ultramarine blue forms ‘drapery’ rather than real ‘dress’. Since the era of Van Dyck and Lely male clothing (as well as female) had become a vehicle for painterly expressiveness, with a timeless appeal to draped clothing with classicising connotations overtaking the desire to be depicted in all the (ever-changing) up-to-date fashions of the times, which would soon make a portrait look out-of-date.

The young sitter also sports luscious locks which may, or may not, be his own. If we refer to the portrait of Charles I, we notice that hair was worn long in his reign, growing even longer into the 1650s and 1660s. When Louis XIII went prematurely bald, he began to wear a wig, setting the fashion at the French court. When Charles II returned to England from exile in 1660, he brought several foreign fashions with him, and by the early 1660s we read accounts of the wigs being widely worn. Wigs were enormously expensive status symbols and could be easier to care for than the wearer’s own hair (which was shaved to accommodate wig wearing). Samuel Pepys – who was a dedicated follower of fashion - recorded in his diary that he bought and wore his first wig in 1663.

This exquisite portrait miniature can be dated to around 1670 due to the shape and length of the hair, but also because of the neckwear. We have charted the development of the plain falling band at the end of Elizabeth I’s reign, to wide bobbin-lace collar in the 1630s. Around 1640 the collar resembled that of our modern shirt, so having gone as wide as it was possible to go around 1637, it then began to move down the front of the doublet during the 1660s. Eventually the long falls at the front of the collar were tied together in a bow forming a shape similar to what we see here.

This young man probably wears a long cravat – like a short scarf – with lace-trimmed ends. When tied around the neck the lace is on full display and if we compare it with the densely patterned but very fine bobbin lace of the 1630s it is highly textured with a large, raised pattern. A needlelace called ‘Gros Point de Venise’ was a popular style, with raised curved edges of the floral pattern created by stitching over horsehair.

The artist of this imposing portrait miniature was Richard Gibson, who was known as ‘Dwarf Gibson’ in his circle. A celebrated personality at the court of Charles I and Henrietta Maria, he and his wife Anne (née Sheppard) were married in 1641, with the bride ‘given away’ by the king. Gibson was famed at court for both his diminutive statue and his talents as an artist.

The present work stands out from Gibson’s oeuvre with the use of more vibrant colour than his typical palette, which was largely shades of brown and ochre. By the date of this portrait, Gibson was an illustrious figure at court, even engaging in some diplomatic duties such as his role as escort to Princess Mary in Amsterdam for her marriage to Prince William of Orange in 1677. Trusted as both steadfast courtier and virtuoso court artist, it is unsurprising that the young man in the present work turned to Gibson for his portrait.

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500 Years of British Art