General Vansittart

Sir George Hayter, 1826


This cabinet miniature is testament not only to George Hayter’s strong artistic abilities but also to his powers of recollection as a signed inscription on the reverse explains it to be a copy in miniature of an oil portrait of General Vansittart painted by Hayter from memory having ‘seen Gen. Vansittart but once 4 years previously’. The portrait shows Vansittart in civilian attire of white waistcoat, black stock and fur-lined coat standing before a red drape. The ink inscription is dated 1826 making it a posthumous portrait as Vansittart died in 1824. It suggests that the portrait was commissioned by his family or a close friend as a memorial piece.

George Henry Vansittart (1768-1824) was a British Army officer during the Napoleonic Wars. The eldest son of George Vansittart M.P. and his wife Sarah, he graduated from Oxford University before enlisting in the 19th Regiment of Foot. He had an illustrious career earning swift promotion through the ranks and taking part in many overseas expeditions. He married late in life and had two sons, the youngest being born after his death in 1824 at the age of 56. The Vansittart family seat was Bisham Abbey once home to Anne of Cleves and said to be haunted by a lady from the sixteenth century.

The portrait is set with convex glass in a decorative ormolu frame, the reverse plate engraved ‘General George Henry Vansittart / born July 17th 1768 / died February 4th 1824, / after being 38 Years in his / Majesty’s service’. The portrait has a teeny chip to the bottom right corner but is otherwise in excellent condition.

The son of Charles Hayter a well-known miniature painter, George Hayter (1792-1871) entered the RA Schools in 1808 though he left briefly to do a stint in the navy before returning to portraiture. He was appointed miniature and portrait painter to Prince Leopold. Described by Queen Victoria as ‘out and out the best portrait painter’, he was appointed Principal Painter in Ordinary to the Queen in 1841 and knighted the following year. An additional portrait by Hayter of Vansittart in uniform is understood to hang at Bisham Abbey.

Item Ref. 7159

Size: framed, 168 x 150mm max.