Henry Osbond Burdon

From England to Chile


This profile has been neatly painted on plaster in sepia with finely added details in strokes of black. It shows a young gentleman in a frilled chemise and cravat looking right and is signed under the bust-line ‘field’. The silhouette is presented in the original gold frame that is glazed on the reverse to show a poignant mourning scene of hair with gold wire on opalescent glass in the form of a weeping willow, the sitter’s initials HOB in tiny seed pearls set on a blue glass plaque. The frame is engraved to the front rim:

Henry Osbond Burdon

and (incorrectly) to the reverse rim:

Born Henley in Arden Warwickshire July 23 1815. Died Nov. 1st 1875. Aged 60.

Genealogical research has revealed that the Henry Osbond Burdon born on this date only lived a few months. As can often happen when portraits are framed and engraved (sometimes long) after the sitter’s death, mistakes creep in. Judging by the sitter’s dress and appearance, coupled with the artist’s dates, this portrait was painted around 1810 and so in all certainty must depict a gentleman (of the same family) from the previous generation.

Further research reveals that this is almost certainly the Henry Osbond Burdon who was born in Henley in Arden, Warwickshire in 1786 (bapt. in July) to Francis Burdon, a grocer, and his wife Sarah Campion. Henry enlisted with the 15th (The Kings) Regiment of Hussars and was stationed in Ireland before seeing action at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 where he was wounded. He was later awarded the Waterloo Medal. It seems likely that this profile was painted as a token of remembrance for his family before Henry left England either with his regiment or when he subsequently emigrated to Chile where, in November 1819, he married Henrietta Leonora Wild. The couple settled in Santiago and were blessed with four children. Burdon was employed there as a merchant and a farmer.

When Burdon died in Santiago in November 1848, non-Catholics were not legally allowed to be buried in ‘holy ground’. Their only option was Cementerio Disidentes (Cemetery of Dissidents) in Valpara√≠so and so it was there that Henry Osbond Burdon was laid to rest, his tombstone reading –

In Memoriam HENRY OSBOND BURDON, born in Warwickshire, England. Died November 1st 1848 and wounded at the BATTLE of WATERLOO

Note that the day and month of his death accords with that engraved on the miniature. The piece is in good condition: there is a single rust spot behind his head (really only noticeable under magnification) and a tiny speck of what looks like card with some surrounding specks of dust caught under the glass, but not touching the base, on the right hand edge. The white speck on his nose visible in one image is not actually there and must have been caused by camera glare! The gold wire on the reverse is displaced though miraculously the seed pearls remain in place.

John Field (1772-1848) had a long career. He was taken on by John Miers during the early 1790s to keep up with the growing demand for profiles. The two men successfully worked alongside each other for decades, Miers specialising in plain black work and Field becoming a master bronzer. The partnership only ended with the death of John Miers in 1821; Field though did not hang up his paintbrush but continued to paint profiles until his own death in 1848.

Item Ref. 7383

Size: framed, 64 x 48mm

Provenance: Shakenhurst Hall