Naval Officer in Profile

Lea of Portsmouth


Meticulously painted using a combination of short brushstrokes, stippling and scratching out, this profile is by the distinctive hand of ‘Lea of Portsmouth’. It shows an unnamed naval officer in a buttoned coat with a standing collar and an epaulette featuring a twisted rope design.

The silhouette is presented in the original papier-mâché frame with a gold verre églomisé border. There is minor loss to the verre églomisé at 8 o’clock and a stable crack to the inner frame rim but otherwise the silhouette and frame are in fine condition.

Recent research has discounted the traditional belief that Lea’s first name was Arthur. He was in fact John Lea. Born in 1768, Lea married a local Portsmouth girl, Elizabeth Nelson, at the age of 21 in June 1790. The young couple lived at Grand Parade, a central and prestigious Portsmouth address and, between 1791 and 1809, had four sons and five daughters though three children did not survive infancy.

According to the Universal British Directory for 1792, John Lea was a glazier. This trade would have given him ready access to suitable glass and he may have honed his painting skills on stained glass projects. Some time between 1814 and 1823, the Lea family uprooted and moved to London. Their new home was 6 Great Charlotte Street, off Blackfriars Road. It was from this address that John Lea exhibited a portrait (undoubtedly one of his silhouettes) of the Non-conformist preacher Rev. J. Angel James at the Royal Academy.

When John Lea died in 1828, the Hampshire Telegraph (3 March 1828) praised ‘the active benevolence of his character’.

For fuller details on the life of John Lea see Lea of Portsmouth – a new identity.

Item Ref. 9127

Size: framed, 155 x 136mm (6 x 5")