Blue Velvet

Henry Bone, 1797


This fashionably dressed young gentleman in a rich blue velvet frock coat, matching waistcoat and powdered wig en queue has a distinguished air of nobility and entitlement. His identity is, however, currently unknown. Enamel on copper, the portrait is painted by the much respected artist, Henry Bone.

Henry Bone specialised in painting small enamel copies of large portraits. To scale them he first made preliminary drawings which he squared before transferring the drawings on to tracing paper. These drawings were kept safe for future use and were later annotated and pasted into archive volumes. These volumes are now preserved at the National Portrait Gallery. The corresponding preparatory drawing for this portrait can be found in volume 3 (ref. NPG D17565). It is dated 1798 (a year later than the enamel) but, unlike most of the archived drawings, it is not annotated with the sitter’s name.

The portrait is signed and dated 1797 on the counter enamel. It has a teeny chip at 7 o’clock which is virtually concealed under the rim of the frame. Otherwise the portrait is in excellent condition. It is set in an attractive copper gilt frame with a decorative mask hanger and corner decorations laid on gold silk. The antique silk had some wear with small losses but it still very much looks the part!

Henry Bone (1755-1834) was born in Cornwall. His artistic career began in Plymouth where he painted china. A move to London followed where he graduated to enamelling designs for watches. He first exhibited miniature portraits at the Royal Academy in 1781. He was appointed Enamel Painter in Ordinary to George III in 1809. He was in his 80th year when he died at his house in Clarendon Square in December 1834.

Item Ref. 7158

Size: portrait to view, 100 x 78mm ; framed, 135 x 111mm + surmount

Provenance: Sotheby's, June 1992