Charles Leicester (1766-1815)

Sarah Harrington


This silhouette was cut in November 1783 to mark Charles Leicester’s admission to Trinity College, Cambridge at age of seventeen. His mortar board indicates that he was a ‘hat fellow-commoner’, a rank often given to the younger sons of noblemen. It meant that he paid double the tuition fee but was also entitled to certain privileges.

Born in Cheshire in 1766, Charles Leicester was the third son of Sir Peter Leicester 4th Baronet and Catherine Fleming. His father died when he was just three years old. In 1792, aged 25, he firstly married Mary Egerton and, following her death in 1797, he secondly married Louisa Harriet Smythe with whom he had four children. He died in 1815 aged 48; his wife outlived him by 47 years and was 87 when she died.

The well-detailed silhouette is a hollow-cut and is backed in the traditional way with blackened paper. It resides in the original turned wood frame with an inner crenellated gilt border. The sitter’s name is inscribed on the wooden backing board.

Working between 1772 and 1787, Mrs Sarah Harrington took up silhouette cutting in later life, successfully patenting her method of producing profiles in 1775. She regularly visited Oxford and Cambridge where she was assured of a steady and lucrative clientele amongst the university freshmen and graduates. She herself was well-educated and advocated the education of women, even giving geography lessons to young ladies. Her work is often recognisable by the defined eyelash and the bust-line termination.

Item Ref. 6344

Size: framed, 122 x 101mm (4¾ x 4")