This portrait by one of the leading miniaturists of the late eighteenth/ early nineteenth century, George Engleheart, is traditionally thought to have been a member of the Fitzgerald family. Her striking beauty has led family tradition to suggest that she may have been the infamous ‘Pamela’ Fitzgerald (Stéphanie Caroline Anne Syms, Lady Edward FitzGerald, 1773-1831), who supported her husband in his quest for Irish Independence. However, several members of the ‘Fitzgerald’ family are listed in Engleheart’s fee book, and it is perhaps more likely that she was married to Lord Robert Fitzgerald (1765-1833), MP for Kildaire and British Minister in Lisbon. A ‘Mrs. Fitzgerald’ was painted by Engleheart in 1801, a date which would align with the costume in this portrait.[1]The headscarf worn by the sitter appears to be an informal fashion and one perhaps only found in the format of a portrait miniature, not a full-sized oil portrait.

Born at Kew, George Engleheart enrolled in the Royal Academy schools...

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This portrait by one of the leading miniaturists of the late eighteenth/ early nineteenth century, George Engleheart, is traditionally thought to have been a member of the Fitzgerald family. Her striking beauty has led family tradition to suggest that she may have been the infamous ‘Pamela’ Fitzgerald (Stéphanie Caroline Anne Syms, Lady Edward FitzGerald, 1773-1831), who supported her husband in his quest for Irish Independence. However, several members of the ‘Fitzgerald’ family are listed in Engleheart’s fee book, and it is perhaps more likely that she was married to Lord Robert Fitzgerald (1765-1833), MP for Kildaire and British Minister in Lisbon. A ‘Mrs. Fitzgerald’ was painted by Engleheart in 1801, a date which would align with the costume in this portrait.[1]The headscarf worn by the sitter appears to be an informal fashion and one perhaps only found in the format of a portrait miniature, not a full-sized oil portrait.

Born at Kew, George Engleheart enrolled in the Royal Academy schools in 1769, after a period working with the landscape painter George Barret. Once he became an independent miniaturist, Engleheart enjoyed virtual overnight success and from 1775 ran one of the most successful studios in the country. He was prolific – his fee book records almost thirty sittings on some days – and his forty-year career maintained virtually the same consistent pace throughout. His careful draughtsmanship and rapid drawing from the life make his portraits some of the most lively and attractive from the period. Engleheart attracted wealthy and important clientele and by 1776 had already painted George III several times (he would paint the king over twenty-five times during his career). In 1789, on the death of Jeremiah Meyer, he was officially appointed miniature painter to the king. This portrait, taken at the turn of the century, looks towards the pared down portrait style of Regency England. The white dress and cloth covering the sitter’s dark hair, and plain background, ensures that the viewer’s attention is focused solely on the sitter’s face.

[1]See G.C. Williamson, ‘George Engleheart, 750-1829, miniature painter to George III (see sitters listed for year 1801)

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500 Years of British Art