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John Young, 2nd Queens Regiment

A Sweetheart Keepsake

Standing to attention, for all the world like a toy soldier, this early 19th century naive watercolour portrait depicts John Young of Her Majesty’s 2nd Queens Royal Regiment in dress uniform with the insignia of the Paschal lamb recognisable on his crossbelt. In the background is a sailing ship, the crew visible on deck, and a castle, possibly Upnor Castle, flying the Union Jack.

The sitter is identified by the artist’s inscription running along the foot of the portrait – ‘John Young, Of Her Majestys 2nd Queens Royal R[eg.]’. It is further signed and inscribed on the reverse with the artist’s details – ‘Painted by Charles Deana? Late 15th Madras Watts Place Chatham Kent / any further Orders Post Paid’.

Long before the advent of photography, naive portraits like this were painted to be sent home to wives and sweethearts as keepsakes or Valentines. The artists were itinerant and normally would not have signed their work. What’s interesting here is that Charles Deana (the surname is difficult to read) was seizing the opportunity to advertise for further commissions!

Although a rare survivor, the portrait does have some condition issues: wear to the paint mostly to the red and green areas; two horizontal abrasions on the left edge; general surface dirt mostly visible in the unpainted area.

The watercolour is presented in a period lemon giltwood frame that is suitably distressed and has small corner losses.

All in all, this is a most charming and rare piece of social history.

Item Ref. 5584

Size: framed, 284 x 248mm (11⅛ x 9¾")