This portrait of an unknown officer dates to circa 1785 and is set into its original bracelet clasp. This portrait was probably worn by the sitter’s wife, a fashion endorsed by Queen Charlotte, wife of George III.[1] The portrait worn by the Queen was a wedding gift from her husband and this was frequently the case when portrait miniatures were exchanged. The present work by Engleheart is particularly well preserved, the colours remarkably fresh and vivid.

Engleheart ranks among Smart, Cosway, and Humphry as one of the most talented miniaturists active in Georgian England. Engleheart was the third surviving son of a German plaster-modeller, Francis Engleheart, born in Kew, London, in 1750, with an innate creative ambition inherited from his father. His artistic verve helped him to carve a successful and extraordinarily prolific career as an accomplished miniaturist. According to his fee-books, now in private hands, he produced some 4,853 portrait miniatures on ivory during his lifetime, many...

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This portrait of an unknown officer dates to circa 1785 and is set into its original bracelet clasp. This portrait was probably worn by the sitter’s wife, a fashion endorsed by Queen Charlotte, wife of George III.[1] The portrait worn by the Queen was a wedding gift from her husband and this was frequently the case when portrait miniatures were exchanged. The present work by Engleheart is particularly well preserved, the colours remarkably fresh and vivid.

Engleheart ranks among Smart, Cosway, and Humphry as one of the most talented miniaturists active in Georgian England. Engleheart was the third surviving son of a German plaster-modeller, Francis Engleheart, born in Kew, London, in 1750, with an innate creative ambition inherited from his father. His artistic verve helped him to carve a successful and extraordinarily prolific career as an accomplished miniaturist. According to his fee-books, now in private hands, he produced some 4,853 portrait miniatures on ivory during his lifetime, many of which depicting notable members of London’s high society.

He began his professional training in 1769, when he was admitted to the Royal Academy Schools in London, where he started as the first pupil of the Irish landscape artist George Barret (c.1730 - 1784). He shortly moved on to become an apprentice of sorts, working under the supervision of the celebrated portrait painter, Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-1792). He absorbed stylistic and technical influence from his master by meticulously copying his portraits in miniature. Indeed, his subsequent miniatures betray glimmers of those stylistic and compositional devices absorbed during his early years of imitation. During the period from 1773 to 1822, Engleheart exhibited selected works from his growing inventory at the Academy.

The skill and virtuosity apparent in his work attracted the attention of King George III who, in 1789, employed him as his Pictor Primus. This honour awarded him an abundance of commissions, some twenty-five from the monarch and royal family alone, and he henceforth built up a robust following of loyal patrons.

[1] See the painting by Johann Zoffany of the Queen, dated 1766, Holburne Museum, Bath and the portrait of the same subject by Sir Thomas Lawrence, National Gallery, London (dated 1789). The miniature was by Jeremiah Meyer, a contemporary of George Engleheart, and remains in The Royal Collection.

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500 Years of British Art