This immaculately preserved portrait of an unknown gentleman by George Engleheart was painted at the height of his career in the mid-1780s. Engleheart was a talented, prolific and hard-working artist, conjuring dynamic portraits, with sitters posed against delicate sky backgrounds. The turn of head in this present work gives a sense of the sitter’s movement, enhanced by the wisps of hair escaping from his powdered bouffant.

Around this date, men’s hairstyles were influenced by the fashionable Prince of Wales, who in 1782 changed his look as described by Lady Spencer; ‘The Prince dresses his hair in a new way, flattish at sides, frizzed and widish (sic) at each side and three curls at the bottom of this frizzing.' The new style can be seen in this portrait. His hairstyle gradually became more and more exaggerated until it was satirised by James Gilray, the caricaturist, in March 1802, after which it became much more restrained. By this date, hair powder...

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This immaculately preserved portrait of an unknown gentleman by George Engleheart was painted at the height of his career in the mid-1780s. Engleheart was a talented, prolific and hard-working artist, conjuring dynamic portraits, with sitters posed against delicate sky backgrounds. The turn of head in this present work gives a sense of the sitter’s movement, enhanced by the wisps of hair escaping from his powdered bouffant.

Around this date, men’s hairstyles were influenced by the fashionable Prince of Wales, who in 1782 changed his look as described by Lady Spencer; ‘The Prince dresses his hair in a new way, flattish at sides, frizzed and widish (sic) at each side and three curls at the bottom of this frizzing.' The new style can be seen in this portrait. His hairstyle gradually became more and more exaggerated until it was satirised by James Gilray, the caricaturist, in March 1802, after which it became much more restrained. By this date, hair powder was becoming outmoded, largely due to the new higher tax imposed on it from 1795.

George Engleheart was one of the most distinguished miniaturists of the late Georgian period alongside Cosway, Smart and Humphry. Born in Kew, the son of a German plaster modeler, he studied at the Royal Academy Schools under Sir Joshua Reynolds and the landscape painter George Barret. His combined skill and industry as a miniaturist appealed to George III, and in 1789, shortly after the present work was painted, he was appointed Miniature Painter to the King. He painted at least twenty-five portraits of the King and many others of the royal family. He spent most of his career working in London where he built up a virtually unrivaled reputation.


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500 Years of British Art