Richard Gibson (1615-90)
By the time of 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.
Richard Gibson (known as ‘Dwarf Gibson’ in his circle), was born in Cumberland and worked as an apprentice in a tapestry works 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 time of 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’, but this prestigious title was to only last a year despite his close links with the royal family.
This pair of portraits are rare in that they have remained together. As miniatures were usually part of an exchange between courting couples, they were easily separated as the portraits were passed down the family line. Although the couple represented in the portraits are unknown, they are not dressed ostentatiously and may even be from Gibson’s circle of friends. The lady wears a ‘French hood’ or ‘chaperon’, which came into fashion during the 1640s and would be worn in the winter. The size of the portraits is also of note – they are smaller than Gibson’s usual format and may have originally been housed facing each other in a locket, hence remaining together ever since.