Rare Locket Find

Jane Read


This double-sided silhouette locket has been reverse painted on glass around 1800-1805 by Jane Read whose work, although rarely seen, is well appreciated by collectors. On one side it shows a lady in a décolleté dress with a lace fill-in, a watch or perhaps a miniature portrait hung on a long guard chain tucked into her corsage. A couple of curls peep out from under a close cap trimmed with lace and decorated with a ribbon rosette. On the other side is her husband wearing a double-breasted coat over a spotted waistcoat and frilled chemise.

Both profiles have been carefully painted on the reverse side of convex glass and backed with wax. Fingerprinting has added texture to the lady’s dress and cap whilst a needle has been used to scratch out the strands of hair and the coat button. The silhouettes have been backed with a coating of wax which shows small area of cracking but nonetheless remains remarkably intact. The gilt metal locket frame is original.

One of five children, Jane was born into a creative family: her mother, Isabella Beetham, trained under John Smart and became a professional silhouette artist whilst her father, Edward Beetham, had various careers that included bookselling, acting and inventing, his most successful invention being the washing machine. Jane helped out in her mother’s studio from an early age and had drawing lessons from the portrait painter John Opie. Opie is reputed to have had an amorous relationship with his young pupil but in the event she chose to marry the lawyer John Read, a widower ten years her senior, in 1800. The couple had a daughter, Cordelia whose own colourful story is related here.

Jane’s early work was stylistically influenced by her mother though she later refined her technique by delineating the sitter’s features in a style that was more akin to a portrait miniature.

Item Ref. 7436

Size: 60mm diameter + frame

Provenance: Frederick Joachim collection, Christie's 1995