One outstanding feature of this enamel, painted by a professional but unknown hand, is the sitter’s unusual dress. Here the sitter wears a coat of two halves – one red, one blue. It has been suggested that this form of dress, particularly in such a small and intimate image, may be the regalia of one of the famous, underground libertine clubs of the period. These clubs were elite organizations in which ‘hedonism ruled in a mix of sociability and rampant sexuality that led to excess’, often called ‘Hell-Fire’ clubs.[1] The secrecy of these clubs meant that their proceedings and members were not recorded and information about them remains restricted to historians.

At least one other miniature portrait of about the same period that appears to show the same dress.[2] The sitter of another enamel is identified as John Dodd, (1718-1782), signed by Andre Rouquet and noted by Horace Walpole on the back of the frame as being c.1739. Dodd...

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One outstanding feature of this enamel, painted by a professional but unknown hand, is the sitter’s unusual dress. Here the sitter wears a coat of two halves – one red, one blue. It has been suggested that this form of dress, particularly in such a small and intimate image, may be the regalia of one of the famous, underground libertine clubs of the period. These clubs were elite organizations in which ‘hedonism ruled in a mix of sociability and rampant sexuality that led to excess’, often called ‘Hell-Fire’ clubs.[1] The secrecy of these clubs meant that their proceedings and members were not recorded and information about them remains restricted to historians.

At least one other miniature portrait of about the same period that appears to show the same dress.[2] The sitter of another enamel is identified as John Dodd, (1718-1782), signed by Andre Rouquet and noted by Horace Walpole on the back of the frame as being c.1739. Dodd was an MP and was a Governor of the Foundling Hospital from 1739. It has been suggested that a possible sitter for this enamel could be John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, but he would have been around twenty years old at the time this enamel was painted which seems perhaps too young for this sitter.[3]

Although in the past this portrait enamel has been attributed to Jean Rouquet, technically this work does not correspond with his technique. Rouquet was able to replicate the smooth nature of watercolour on ivory whereas this enamel is painted with a stippled technique. The sure handling of the difficult enamelling technique is clearly undertaken here by an as yet unknown, but professional, artist.

[1] E. Lord, The Hell-Fire Clubs: Sex, Satanism and Secret Societies, New Haven, CT, Yale University Press, 2008, p. xxii

[2] This enamel, by Jean Andre Rouquet, was sold Bonhams, London, 30 May, 2013, lot 25

[3] Personal communication with Christopher Bryant (February 2020), who also suggested that the unusual clothing may relate to that worn by a secret society. Lord Sandwich was at Eton with Dodd (and Horace Walpole, owner of Dodd’s miniature by Petitot) and then both were at Cambridge, though at Dodd was at King's College while Sandwich was at Trinity.

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500 Years of British Art