Gervase Spencer remains an elusive character, whose body of work suggests a career of some note, but whose personal circumstances were barely recorded. He was apparently a gentleman’s servant before discovering a talent for painting, his work catching the eye of George Vertue, who described him in 1740 as ‘a young man who not or a few years ago was in the capacity of a footman to Dr. W…-and now professes liming with some success. which demonstrates a Genius pratizing by degrees of himself – and really is in a curious neat manner and masterly’.[1] His work was commissioned by the royal family and nobility, the present example most likely fits with the zenith of his career in the late 1740s.


The memoirs of Spencer's fellow miniaturist Samuel Finney describe how clients often ordered a portrait both in miniature (watercolour on ivory) and in enamel. This is likely to have been the case with Spencer’s commissions, as he was...


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Gervase Spencer remains an elusive character, whose body of work suggests a career of some note, but whose personal circumstances were barely recorded. He was apparently a gentleman’s servant before discovering a talent for painting, his work catching the eye of George Vertue, who described him in 1740 as ‘a young man who not or a few years ago was in the capacity of a footman to Dr. W…-and now professes liming with some success. which demonstrates a Genius pratizing by degrees of himself – and really is in a curious neat manner and masterly’.[1] His work was commissioned by the royal family and nobility, the present example most likely fits with the zenith of his career in the late 1740s.


The memoirs of Spencer's fellow miniaturist Samuel Finney describe how clients often ordered a portrait both in miniature (watercolour on ivory) and in enamel. This is likely to have been the case with Spencer’s commissions, as he was adept in both mediums. Unlike miniatures, enamels were richly coloured and tough and durable, always retaining their original palette.

[1] Vertue, Note books, 3.51

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500 Years of British Art