Rare Pastel & Cut-Out Profile

Nathaniel Bermingham


This well-finished profile portrait form the third quarter of the eighteenth century shows a slender gentleman in a powdered toupée and queue dressed in a teal blue coat over a white waistcoat and knotted stock. Drawn in pastel, the front edge of the profile has been cut out from the top of the head, around the face and down the front length of the coat. A further sheet of paper painted in matching dark pastel has then been cleverly and almost seamlessly affixed behind this edge. This part-cut technique was unique to the Irish artist Nathaniel Bermingham who also specialised in decorative cut paper and painted coat-of-arms.

In fine condition, the portrait is presented in the original giltwood frame with a inner beaded border.

Born in Dublin around 1712, Nathaniel Bermingham served out an apprenticeship with a herald painter before moving to London to work as a cut paper and portrait artist. He came to an arrangement with the fashionable print shop owner Laetitia Pilkington whereby she was to pass off his work as hers for a third share of the profit. In her Memoirs, Laetitia colourfully described the young Bermingham as “a most ugly, squinting, mean-looking fellow” and, when she ended their short-lived partnership, “a low-born, ugly illiterate scoundrel”. It appears though that Bermingham had some success with his work as by 1769 he was proudly advertising that royalty and nobility were amongst his clientele. A decade later he was found drowned at Chelsea, aged 70. Horace Walpole owned an example of Bermingham’s cut paper work; another example can be found in the V & A Museum Collection.

Item Ref. 7563

Size: framed, 318 x 278mm (12½ x 11")

Literature: Memoirs of Mrs Pilkington 1912-1750, Repr. 1928