This characterful portrait of an unknown gentleman is a rare example of work in enamel by the portrait miniaturist Jeremiah Meyer. Born in Germany and moving to England at an early age, Meyer’s early training was with the enamellist Christian Friedrich Zincke (1683/5-1767), although this was only a brief tutorship, given that Zincke was becoming increasingly frail and unable to take students. Whereas many miniaturists in the latter half of the 18th century commenced their careers as watercolourists on ivory and worked with enamels at a later stage, Meyer reversed this tradition.


Meyer was the oldest of a group of artists, including Richard Cosway, John Smart and Richard Crosse, all born around the same date, who took lessons at William Shipley 's new drawing school, the first such school in London. After his expensive apprenticeship with Zincke, it seems that he also spent time at the informal St. Martin's Lane 'Academy' run by William Hogarth. As one of...


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This characterful portrait of an unknown gentleman is a rare example of work in enamel by the portrait miniaturist Jeremiah Meyer. Born in Germany and moving to England at an early age, Meyer’s early training was with the enamellist Christian Friedrich Zincke (1683/5-1767), although this was only a brief tutorship, given that Zincke was becoming increasingly frail and unable to take students. Whereas many miniaturists in the latter half of the 18th century commenced their careers as watercolourists on ivory and worked with enamels at a later stage, Meyer reversed this tradition.


Meyer was the oldest of a group of artists, including Richard Cosway, John Smart and Richard Crosse, all born around the same date, who took lessons at William Shipley 's new drawing school, the first such school in London. After his expensive apprenticeship with Zincke, it seems that he also spent time at the informal St. Martin's Lane 'Academy' run by William Hogarth. As one of the founder members of the Royal Academy, which opened in 1769, Meyer was one of a new generation of miniaturists who would present their art form in direct competition with oil painters.

In 1764, Meyer was appointed miniature painter to Queen Charlotte and painter in enamel to King George III and a decade later, in 1774, one critic noted ‘[His] miniatures excell all others in pleasing Expression, Variety of Tints and Freedom of Execution’. The present example shares similar characteristics in its execution with the portrait in the Royal Collection of George II as Prince of Wales [RCIN 421850]. Meyer was commissioned to paint the King’s miniature portrait, set in an oval of diamonds in the pearl bracelet given to Princess Charlotte as an engagement present and it appears to have been worn by her all her life.[1]

When Meyer died, according to a contemporary, Charlotte Papendiek, Meyer’s widow sent his remaining miniatures, including portraits of the royal family, to the sitters without making a charge. The Queen was so pleased that ‘she liberally rewarded Mrs Meyer for her honourable conduct’.

[1] In 1761, King George III, requested an enamel portrait of himself from Meyer as a gift to his future wife, Charlotte, daughter of the Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Later, as Queen, the bracelet is shown on her wrist in various oil portraits, including the 1789 portrait of her by Sir Thomas Lawrence.

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500 Years of British Art