Rare Pocketbook Keepsake

Domenico Bossi, 1805


The intimacy of portrait miniatures is well recognised, each one a unique and personal keepsake. How much more intimate though is this portrait that is contained within a pocketbook to be held close and admired in private by its original owner.

The portrait shows a blushing young lady, her hair fashionably cropped and curled, in a décolleté white dress with a narrow gold band on the high waistline and buttons on the short sleeves and shoulders. She has a red jewel on her corsage and a vibrant blue shawl with a patterned edge.

The portrait is signed on the obverse – D. Bossi / f.1805. It is set in a 14ct. gold mount within the covers of a red morocco-bound pocketbook. The corners of the cover, front and back, are ornamented with small gold devices, the centre with a coiled snake holding a small gold plaque engraved with monogrammed initials – HK on the front and WT on the rear.

The book would have been fastened by a pencil which is no longer present. Inside it is lined with green silk with a pocket front and back. The book itself comprises seven leaves of old laid paper (partial watermark on some pages) and two central white card leaves. A couple of the pages have tantalising inscriptions in ink and there are additional faint pencil annotations all of which are tricky to decipher though a trained eye may be able to pick out some names which may in turn help identify the lady in the portrait.

The portrait is in excellent condition. The covers of the book are a little scuffed especially to the head and head of the spine and the corner tips slightly bowed and compressed but there are no tears.

Giovanni Domenico Bossi (1765-1853) is ranked amongst the elite of European miniaturists. Having trained initially in Venice, he travelled extensively through northern Europe. In 1805, when this portrait was painted, he was based in Russia. There he was favoured by the Imperial family and made court painter at St Petersburg. His work is represented in many important collections including the National Museum of Stockholm and The Hermitage Museum.

Item Ref. 6827

Size: portrait, 60 x 50mm ; closed book, 128 x 77mm