“A Guinea Pig”

Thomas Le Hardy, 1796


During the late eighteenth century, William Pitt’s government was forced to introduce new taxes to defray the cost of the Napoleonic Wars. These taxes were levied on all sorts of household goods including clocks, soap, and newspapers. Hair powder was also targeted out and, from May 1795, anyone using hair powder needed to cough up a guinea in order to purchase an annual certificate. Those who did were dubbed ‘guinea pigs’.

Wearing a blue coat that matches the colour of his eyes, this assured-looking gentleman has made himself a ‘guinea pig’ by continuing to use grey powder in his hair, the evidence of this showing up on the collar of his coat.

The portrait is signed on the obverse ‘Le Hardy 1796’ and is housed in a gold frame, the reverse with a foiled blue glass border and inner glazed aperture revealing a sheaf of brown hair with gold wire and seed pearls.

Born in Jersey, Thomas Le Hardy worked in London, Weymouth and Bath between 1791 and 1802.

Item Ref. 6326

Size: framed, 86 x 70mm