Late 18th Century
Portrait of a Lady
Pastel on paper, mounted on canvas
Image size: 28 x 23 inches
Contemporary style frame
Ernst Museum Auction
This pastel portrait of a lady dates from the late eighteenth century. She is pictured in a white muslin dress in the style made fashionable by Marie Antoinette, after she was painted wearing one in 1783. This could have been quite a daring choice for our subject as at the time Marie Antoinette was much criticised for allowing herself to be seen in attire that was deemed to be too similar to undergarments - indeed the style was called 'la chemise de la reine'.
It is certainly very different from the ornate rococo styles that had previously dominated. The mop cap worn by our subject suggests that she was a married woman, and obviously of some wealth judging by the intricate lace work and silk ribbons adorning her otherwise relatively simple dress.
There is an intriguing label attached to the back of this portrait - 'Ernst Museum Auction'. This suggests that it was once the property of Lajos Ernst, who was a noted Hungarian art critic and collector. During his life Ernst collected 6,500 articles from Hungarian history and art and founded a museum in 1912 to house his collection (the Ernst Museum in Budapest, which still exists today). An auction was held there twice a year between 1917 and 1937.
1707 - 1792
Portrait of a Gentleman in a Blue Coat
Image size: 23 x 18 ⅛ inches
Contemporary gilt frame
Hoare was born at Eye, Suffolk, 1707. He was the son of a prosperous farmer and brother to the sculptor Prince Hoare (d.1769). Hoare was a pupil of Guiseppe Grisoni (1699–1769) with whom he went to Italy in 1728. He stayed for nine years, studying under Imperiali and supporting himself comfortably by copying famous masterpieces.
Hoare then settled in Bath 1739 and was its most fashionable portraitist in oil and crayons until the arrival of Gainsborough in 1759, although he remained in demand until giving up painting in about 1779.
Hoare died in Bath on the 9th December 1792, in prosperous circumstances. His son Prince Hoare (1755–1835), also a painter, studied under him and under Mengs in Rome, but gave up painting for writing after 1785.
Frans van der Mijn
1719 - 1783
Portrait of a Lady
Oil on board
Image size: 6¾ x 6¼ inches
Period gilt frame
Van der Mijn came from a family of Dutch artists and his father, Herman van der Mijn (ca. 1684-1741), arrived in London around 1721 from Antwerp. After a childhood in London, Frans worked in Amsterdam and The Hague in the seventeen forties and fifties, returning to London to exhibit annually at the Society of Artists between 1761 and 1772.
This charming portrait resembles a grisaille oil now at the Rijksmuseum dated 1756. In keeping with much British portraiture of the period, an underlying naturalism (in this case Dutch), is enhanced by stylistic touches and exotic elements that hint at allegory and demonstrate admiration for French art—a combination that predominated in 18th century London until the Royal Academy was founded in 1768, and interest in Italian sources renewed.
Mid 16th Century
Portrait of Captain John Hyfield
Oil on oak panel
Image size: 16 ½ x 11 inches
Sotheby’s, 2nd February 2001, lot 151.
This fine and rare three-quarter-length portrait is reputed to depict Captain John Hyfield (or
Highfield). The top left hand side of the portrait contains the sitter’s coat of arms, which is made up of a
red chevron between three acorns. The top right hand side of the portrait contains a Latin inscription
which gives us the sitter’s family motto ‘SPE DUCOR’ (which can be translated as ‘I am lead by hope’)
as well as his age, ‘AETATIS SUAE 42’ and the date, ‘A.D. 1568’. Inscriptions such as this are
common in early English portraiture and serve to highlight the commemorative function of the portrait
to capture a sitter’s likeness at a certain point in their life.
The painting displays the charming naïve qualities characteristic of much Elizabethan portraiture and
the fact that the various elements of the body are not in proper anatomical proportion only adds to the
work’s character. As was often the practice in portraits up until the 18th century, the work was painted
by two artists, one, who painted the sitter’s face and another, who was employed to paint the costume.
The depiction of the gentleman’s face is extremely delicate and well rendered and is similar to the work
of miniaturists of this period, capturing the sitter’s features in minute detail. The costumist has taken
much trouble in faithfully replicating the complex forms of the individual elements of armour and
creating a convincing sense of perspective with his depiction of the rapier hilt, a challenging element for
The sitter’s attire was chosen to display his heroism and martial prowess but also his wealth and power.
He cuts an authoritative figure, holding a staff of office aloft in his right hand, his left hand confidently
planted on the helmet at his side. The use of firearms in war became more widespread during the latter
part of the 16th century and by the 1560’s full plate armour, particularly ornate sets such as this, was
produced mainly for use in tournaments rather than the battlefield. Chivalry was a prominent feature
of the Elizabethan court and tournaments, organized by one of the queen’s favourites, Sir Henry Lee,
were major events of court life during her reign. These events gave her male courtiers the opportunity
to indulge their sense of display and masculine exuberance. We can see that the sitter in this portrait is
dressed for a tournament as he wears a lance rest midway up the right hand side of his breastplate. The
armour is richly decorated with strips of gilded patterns and would have been an extremely expensive
status symbol. It appears to be in the Italian style and was possibly made at the armoury at Greenwich,
which was founded by Henry VIII and produced armour of the finest quality for the Tudor nobility, (a
comparable example of Greenwich armour, probably made for Roger Baron North, is held at the
Royal Armoury). The bulging lobster-like articulated tassets echo the 16th century fashion for padded
hose and are especially typical of armour of this style and date (c.1550-1560), as are the pointed
besagews, which cover the wearer’s armpits and protect the joint between the cuirass, (or breastplate),
and the plates that cover the arms.
- Cooper, T. A Guide to Tudor and Jacobean Portraits, London, (2008).
- Reynolds, A. In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion, London, (2013)
English School, (circa 1600)
Portrait of a Melancholic Gentleman
Oil on panel, oval
Image size: 29¼ x 23⅞ inches
Painted wooden frame
Collection of Francis Greville, 1st Earl of Warwick.
The Trustees of the Lord Brooks’ Settlement, (removed from Warwick Castle).
Sotheby’s, London, 22nd March 1968, lot 81.
This intriguing and mysterious example of Elizabethan portraiture dates from around 1600 and
presents a deeply romantic image of a wealthy young gentleman. The sitter has been depicted in
expensive clothing, which reflects his wealth and indicates that he is of a noble status. His linen shirt is
edged with a delicate border of lace and his black cloak is lined on the inside with sumptuous scarlet
and richly decorated on the outside with gold braid and a pattern of embroidered black spots.
Despite the richness of his clothes, the sitter has been presented in a dishevelled state of semi-undress,
his shirt unlaced far down his chest with the ties lying limply over his hand, indicating that he is in a
state of distracted detachment. It has been suggested that the fashion for melancholy was rooted in an
increase in self-consciousness and introspective reflection during the late 16th and early 17th centuries.
In contemporary literature melancholy was said to be caused by a plenitude of the melancholy humor,
one of the four vital humors, which were thought to regulate the functions of the body. An abundance
of the melancholia humor was associated with a heightened creativity and intellectual ability and hence
melancholy was linked to the notion of genius, as reflected in the work of the Oxford scholar Robert
Burton, who in his work ‘The Anatomy of Melancholy’, described the Malcontent as ‘of all others
[the]… most witty, [who] causeth many times divine ravishment, and a kind of enthusiamus… which
stirreth them up to be excellent Philosophers, Poets and Prophets.’ (R. Burton, The Anatomy of
Melancholy, London, 1621 in R. Strong, ‘Elizabethan Malady: Melancholy in Elizabethan and Jacobean
Portraits’, Apollo, LXXIX, 1964). Melancholy was viewed as a highly fashionable affliction under
Elizabeth I, and her successor James I, and a dejected demeanour was adopted by wealthy young men,
often presenting themselves as scholars or despondent lovers, as reflected in the portraiture and
literature from this period. Although the sitter in this portrait is, as yet, unidentified, it seems probable
that he was a nobleman with literary or artistic ambitions, following in the same vain as such famous
figures as the aristocratic poet and dramatist, Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (1550-1604).
The work can also be compared with the portrait of the poet John Donne (c.1595), a rare example of a
portrait of a known literary figure from the period, which currently hangs in the National Portrait
Gallery. As discussed by Tarnya Cooper, this portrait and Donne’s are of a very similar format, both
depicting their young sitters in a similar state of melancholic distraction, with their black cloaks
wrapped around their shoulders. The similarities between this portrait and that of Donne perhaps
indicate the existence of a small sub-genre of portraits depicting aspiring literary figures (see Cooper’s
discussion of the work in Cooper, T. Citizen Portrait: Portrait Painting and the Urban Elite of Tudor and
Jacobean England and Wales, London, (2012), p.190). Both paintings contain an unusual wispy vertical
white/grey brushstroke, emanating from the sitters’ chests. Elizabethan portraits often contain secret
signs and symbols, which told stories about their sitters, and it has been suggested that this mark could
represent the vapour of melancholy (see Cooper’s discussion of this feature of Donne’s portrait in
Cooper, T. and Eade, J. Elizabeth I & Her People, London, (2014), p.181).
We are grateful to Adam Busiakiewicz for his assistance researching this work.
- Cooper, T. Citizen Portrait: Portrait Painting and the Urban Elite of Tudor and Jacobean England and Wales,
- Cooper, T. and Eade, J. (ed.) Elizabeth I & Her People, London, (2014).
- Reynolds, A. In Fine Style: The Art of Tudor and Stuart Fashion, London, (2013).
- Strong, R. ‘Elizabethan Malady: Melancholy in Elizabethan and Jacobean Portraits’, Apollo, LXXIX,
Late 18th Century
Portrait of a Gentleman in a Wide-Brimmed Hat
Oil on canvas
Image size: 30 x 25 inches
Contemporary carved gilt frame
This elegant half-length portrait, painted in the style of West, depicts a seated gentleman wearing a black hat and green coat with his left hand resting on the spine of a large book clasped under his
shoulder. The strong contrast of light and dark follows West’s own work, and the inclusion of the cocked hat, which has been used to create a strong shadow across the top of the gentleman’s forehead, is reminiscent of West’s own self-portrait.
Benjamin West was one of the most prominent artists of his time. President of the Royal Academy from 1792 until his death, he received many commissions from George III and other English patrons, and at the same time served as teacher and advisor to three generations of American artists in London. He was born in Springfield, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia, on October 10, 1738. His earliest paintings were portraits of children. He went to Italy in 1760 to continue his study of painting and after three years, he settled in London.
West worked primarily as a painter of historical and religious subjects, and as a portrait painter as patronage required. The first pictures he exhibited in London at the Society of Artists in 1764 were subjects from Renaissance literature. George III then commissioned the artist, marking the beginning of royal patronage of West, who painted some sixty pictures for the King.
West is best known for his painting, The Death of General Wolfe, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1771. A milestone in English and American art, this was the first major depiction of a contemporary event with figures in modern clothing.
As George III withdrew his support in the 1790s, William Beckford became an important patron, and commissioned religious paintings and portraits for his Gothic Revival country house, Fonthill Abbey. Americans who studied with West brought his style and techniques back to America, providing a foundation for the growth of the arts in America and creating a style of considerable sophistication.
Portrait of Lady Orford
Pencil, stump and watercolour, heightened with white chalk, signed and dated 1784
Image size: 8 ⅛ x 6 ½ inches
Original gilt frame
Academy for the first time in 1770 before setting off in 1773 for a two-year tour of Italy in the company of the famous portraitist Joseph Wright of Derby.
This attractive half-length portrait of a lady is typical of the artist’s work. The sitter is seated almost in profile in front of a blue curtain, dressed in a ruffle-fronted white dress and headdress. Downman believed that contemporary fashion should be recorded and preserved in portraiture. Unlike many earlier portraitists, he did not depict his sitters in standard or studio costumes, instead the sitters wore their own clothes and thus the portrait served as a form of snapshot of a particular fashion and period within the sitter’s life (see Lloyd, S. and Sloan, K. (ed.), The Intimate Portrait: Drawings Miniatures and Pastels from Ramsay to Lawrence, London, (2008), p.229).
Downman was elected an associate Royal Academician in 1795 and continued to exhibit at the Royal Academy until 1819. In his later life he moved to Wrexham in Devon where he died in 1824. A large number of his works are kept in the British Museum and Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, where an exhibition of his work was held in 1996.
- Lloyd, S. and Sloan, K. (ed.), The Intimate Portrait: Drawings Miniatures and Pastels from Ramsay to Lawrence, London, (2008).
Late 18th Century
Portrait of a Gentleman in Levantine Dress
Oil on canvas
Image size: 19¾ x 16½ inches
Carved gilt frame
1899 - 1968
Graphite on paper, signed lower right
Image size: 15 x 9 inches
Frank Jameson was born in London and later moved to Birmingham where he attended evening classes in drawing and painting at Birmingham Art School. By day he worked as an insurance salesman. During the First World War he became an officer in the Worcester Regiment and was in charge of building bridges and block houses. He returned to the Midlands but then travelled widely by rail, eventually discovering St Ives where he was inspired by the stunning scenery. He stayed and rented the Loft Studio. He also became a member of the St Ives Society of Artists and exhibited frequently with his fellow artists, especially John Park, Arthur Hayward and Dorothea Sharp.
Jameson was a frequent exhibitor at the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol and also exhibited at the Royal Academy, Royal Institute of Oil Painters and the Paris Salon. Whilst staying in Falmouth he was introduced to his future wife Joyce by the artist Thomas Holgate. They married at Penzance Registry office shortly before the Second World War. The couple travelled to Bournemouth and then Dublin where their daughter, Daphine, was born. The family moved to Falmouth in the late 1940s and Jameson set up a studio at 42 High Street. He lived in the town for the rest of his life but also continued his association with St Ives where he exhibited regularly.
There is a permanent exhibition of Jameson's works at Falmouth Art Gallery in Cornwall. Amongst the collection there is another self portrait - an oil that was painted at a later stage in the artist's life.