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Henry Spicer, miniaturist, enamel painter and engraver, was born in Reepham, Norfolk in 1742. He studied under Gervase Spencer and later became the teacher of William Birch (1755-1834), an artist who is believed to have introduced the practice of enamel portraiture to America. He was a member of the Incorporated Society of Artists of Great Britain and was appointed secretary in 1773. In 1770 he was elected a member of the Society of Antiquaries and exhibited for the first time at the Royal Academy in 1774. He later relocated to Dublin where he lived for several years, returning to London in 1782. A true testament to Spicer’s success was his acquisition of the title ‘Official Painter in Enamel’ to the Prince of Wales in 1789.

Spicer was well-connected in the art world, with artists such as George Stubbs and Ozias Humphry included within his circle. In fact, after Spicer’s death in 1804, Humphry would go on to lodge with...

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Henry Spicer, miniaturist, enamel painter and engraver, was born in Reepham, Norfolk in 1742. He studied under Gervase Spencer and later became the teacher of William Birch (1755-1834), an artist who is believed to have introduced the practice of enamel portraiture to America. He was a member of the Incorporated Society of Artists of Great Britain and was appointed secretary in 1773. In 1770 he was elected a member of the Society of Antiquaries and exhibited for the first time at the Royal Academy in 1774. He later relocated to Dublin where he lived for several years, returning to London in 1782. A true testament to Spicer’s success was his acquisition of the title ‘Official Painter in Enamel’ to the Prince of Wales in 1789.

Spicer was well-connected in the art world, with artists such as George Stubbs and Ozias Humphry included within his circle. In fact, after Spicer’s death in 1804, Humphry would go on to lodge with Spicer’s widow until his own death in 1810.

Although the scale if this enamel portrait is intimate, it reflects Spicer’s awareness of current fashions in oil portraits of the period. It was during the mid 1770s that Sir Joshua Reynolds established himself as the leading portraitist of the day and his influence spread to miniaturists as well as to his rivals in oil painting. Here, Spicer has carefully observed the different textures and striking colours of his sitter’s gown. As was the fashion, this unknown young lady wears layers of loose clothing, draped and tied to show her figure. Spicer has also included far more of the sitter’s body in the frame than was usual for a portrait miniature or portrait enamel of this date – perhaps another nod to Reynold’s ambitious compositions in oil.

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500 Years of British Art