Lockdown Locks

Charles Robertson


The son of a Dublin jeweller, Charles Robertson (1770-1821) was trained from an early age to create hair designs, possibly for portrait miniatures painted by his elder brother Walter. Clearly a precocious child, he was only fifteen when he exhibited his first miniature painting.

During the last quarter of the eighteenth century, miniature painting was a lucrative business so it’s no surprise that bitter rivalries sometimes arose between artists such as when, in October 1779, Charles Robertson resorted to advertising in Saunders News-Letter to reassure his friends and the public that, despite “some evil-minded Persons” having reported “with an intention to injure” that he was dead, that he was indeed “living and in good Health”, ready and willing to take on commissions.

One of those commissions was this portrait painted around 1800 showing a gentleman of middle years with deep blue eyes that equal the colour of his coat. The artist has paid particular attention to rendering his thick white hair and rugged eyebrows ensuring that the viewer’s eye is drawn in.

The portrait is set in the original gold frame and is glazed on the reverse to show plaited pale brown hair overlaid with the initials RL. When viewed through a glass, there is a tiny spot of in-painting to his coat and a stable 4mm hairline at the edge at 5 o’clock as well as light dust under the glass.

Item Ref. JH022

Size: framed, 68 x 59mm + hanger