Isabella Sarah Waller

Charles Robertson


During the late eighteenth century, miniature painting was a lucrative business so it’s not surprising that bitter rivalries arose between competing artists. Such must have been the case when, in October 1779, Charles Robertson resorted to advertising in Saunders News-Letter in Dublin to reassure his friends and the public that, despite “some evil-minded persons” having reported “with an intention to injure” that he was dead, he was indeed “living and in good health”, ready and willing to take on commissions.

One of those commissions was this little portrait of Mrs Isabella Sarah Waller in a white gown with a frilled neckline, her powdered curls falling over her shoulders.

Isabella was the eighth child born to (the wonderfully named) Silver Oliver and his wife Isabella Sarah (née Newman). She grew up at Castle Oliver, a palatial house within a large estate in Co. Limerick. The house was said to have had the largest wine cellar in Ireland (55,000 bottles) so Castle Oliver parties must have been really popular events! In 1790, aged 22, Isabella married John Thomas Waller of Castletown. Like his father-in-law, Waller sat in the Irish House of Commons. He was also a Captain in the Limerick Militia. Some time around 1805, at the height of the Napoleonic Wars, the couple travelled to France where they were detained and held as prisoners-of-war. It was there that the “truly amiable” Lady Waller died in 1806, aged 36. Her remains were transported back to Ireland and laid to rest in the family vault.

In fine condition, the miniature resides in the original gold frame with the later addition of a (removal) pearl collar. The frame is scratched reverse – Mrs Waller / sister to Lady / Mount Sandford.

The son of a Dublin jeweller, Charles Robertson (1760-1821) was trained from an early age to create hair designs, possibly for portrait miniatures painted by his elder brother Walter. Clearly a precocious child, he was only fifteen when he exhibited his first miniature painting. Apart from a few years spent in London, Robertson worked in the city of his birth where he also organised an annual fine art exhibition.

Item Ref. 9057M

Size: 37 x 32mm + pearl collar