Portrait miniature of a Lady, wearing a blue dress over white chemise, her brown hair in loose curls, 1769
Portrait miniature of a Lady, wearing a blue dress over white chemise, her brown hair in loose curls, 1769

JOHN SMART (1742-1811)

Portrait miniature of a Lady, wearing a blue dress over white chemise, her brown hair in loose curls, 1769

1769 England

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The present portrait is unusual in Smart’s oeuvre, as it is rare to find him copying another artist. This portrait shows an unknown woman in clothing of circa 1720 and is probably based on a miniature by Bernard Lens (1682-1740) or Christian Richter (1678-1732). Painted in clear, bright tones, it also relates to the enamels popular in the first half of the eighteenth century.

Smart clearly received occasional commissions to copy such works. A miniature of Joseph Wilcocks (1673-1756) after a portrait by Enoch Seeman (c.1694-1744) (engraved in 1721) has recently come to light, painted twenty-three years after the sitter’s death in 1779.[1] The inclusion of his own signature and date on this miniature and the present portrait are an indication that these works were never intended to deceive. It would appear that Smart was likewise asked to replicate, in miniature, oils by his contemporaries, as a portrait miniature of Robert, 1st Baron Clive of Plassey (1725-74)[2] was copied by him after Nathaniel Dance (1735-1811). He also drew for his own pleasure, as evidenced by extant observational sketches of fish and sundry informal sketches of family and friends. Although he could not match his great rival Richard Cosway (1742-1821) as connoisseur and collector, this portrait and others like it are evidence of Smart’s knowledge of the portrait tradition in which he was following.


[1] Sold Sotheby’s, London, Important Miniatures from a Private Collection, 16 April 2008, lot 16.

[2] Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, B1974.2.100.
Karin Henninger-Tavcar; Private Collection, Germany.
Dimensions
Height 42.00 mm (1.65 inches)
Stock Code
MN692
Medium
Watercolour on ivory, and gilded metal frame with spiral cresting
Signed/Inscribed
Signed with initials and dated, ‘J.S/1769’
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