Cherry Red Waistcoat

John Hazlitt


This strongly modelled and well-coloured portrait depicts an older gentleman of character wearing a charcoal coat with a cherry red waistcoat over a blue and white striped under-waistcoat and a frilled chemise. Under-waistcoats or ‘camisols’ were popular during the 1790s. Worn primarily for warmth, they were typically much shorter in length than the standard waistcoat. His powdered wig may date the portrait to pre-1795 when the Powder Tax was introduced though, being more mature of years, this gentleman may well have opted to pay the one guinea tax.

Set against an atmospheric stormy blue and orange background, the portrait retains a freshness of colour and has an alluring intensity. There is a small smudge to the paint on the outside edge just over the gentleman’s shoulder but otherwise the portrait is in fine condition. It is set in a bright-cut gold fausse-montre frame that is glazed on the reverse to show marbled paper.

John Hazlitt was born in Gloucestershire in 1767, the eldest son of an Irish-born Unitarian minister. The young family subsequently moved to Kent and then to Ireland before crossing the Atlantic in 1783 to settle initially in Philadelphia. It was in America that John began to paint miniatures of family friends. His American sojourn only lasted a few years though as by 1787 the family had returned to England where John began to make a name for himself in London. He studied under Joshua Reynolds for a time and exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1788 and 1819. In later life, as his eyesight deteriorated, Hazlitt preferred larger scale portraiture in oils over miniatures.

Item Ref. 7215

Size: framed, 80 x 65mm + hanger

Provenance: Sotheby's, April 1981 (illustrated)