Raspberry & Peppermint

Henry Spicer, 1776


The 1770s was the decade of high coiffures with false locks and wool used to supplement a lady’s natural hair as it was stretched over wool or horsehair pads. It was also the decade that saw increased imports of richly patterned Oriental and Indian fabrics to replace the French silks that were banned from 1766.

Both these trends have been embraced by this elegant and sophisticated lady. Secured with a peppermint green sash, her cross-over gown is sprigged with gold and red and worn with a zingy raspberry red drape fastened to her sleeve with a pearl-studded band.

Painted in enamel on copper, the colours remain vivid and true to the original. The portrait is signed and dated bottom left ‘S / 1776’ and is set in a decorative gilt-metal surround, likely to have been created by London frame-makers W. Hatfield and Sons. The frame has been backed with a leather insert and given a functional twisted wire hanger.

The artist Henry Spicer was born in Norfolk in 1743 and was taught painting and enamelling by Gervase Spencer. Around 1776 he travelled to work in Dublin where he was patronised by the elite of Irish society; this portrait may come from that period. Having married, Spicer and his wife had three daughters, Mary Charlotte (b.1791), Margaret (b.1792) and Jane (b.1794), two of whom took up the art of enamelling. Spicer died in June 1804, reputedly ‘a poor man’.

Item Ref. 9108RS

Size: framed, 90 x 77mm

Provenance: Christie's June 1999 ; Christie's 2012 ; UK Private Collection