Hear & Forsake Not . . .

George Bruce

£1,200

This rare pair of miniature silhouette profiles were painted during the 1790s by the Scottish artist George Bruce who advertised profiles on ivory ‘so small as to set in rings, pins, bracelets, lockets &c’. Depicting a couple from the Forbes family of Pitsligo, both profiles are curiously inscribed on the reverse – ‘Hear the instructions of thy father and forsake not the law of thy mother’, taken from the Book of Proverbs.

Accompanying each silhouette is a personal love token in the form of a small ribbon-tied lock of hair – the lady’s brown, the gentleman’s grey and sparse – carefully folded within paper. Each silhouette is set behind convex glass in its original velvet-lined travelling case.

Having come from the Forbes family, these silhouettes are most likely to depict Sir William Forbes, 7th Baron of Pitsligo (1773-1828) and his wife Williamina Belsches Stuart (1776-1810) and may have been commissioned to mark their marriage in 1797. Sir William, like his father, had a career in banking; Williamina was an heiress. Their marriage apparently broke Sir Walter Scott’s heart as he had earlier fallen for Williamina upon meeting her when she was just 13 years old causing him to reflect – ‘we build statues of snow and weep when they melt’.

George Bruce first worked in Edinburgh as an assistant to Samuel Houghton during the early 1790s. In July 1792, Houghton was suddenly incapacitated and so Bruce took control of the business. In 1797, a few years after Houghton’s death, Bruce married his former teacher’s widow and continued to run the business in Edinburgh. Despite having a long career, examples of his work are surprisingly scarce; his early work is particularly fine and much prized by collectors.

Item Ref. BW9103

Size: gent: 44 x 36mm ; lady: 43 x 33mm + cases

Provenance: Forbes Family of Pitsligo, Aberdeenshire