Red & Green . . .

A Rare Signature


The style of this young man’s green frock with its wide collar and lapel dates the portrait to the early to mid 1790s making this an early work by Nicholas Freese who exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1794. This is further evidenced by the sitter’s use of powder in his hair as the introduction of the Hair Powder Tax in 1795 led younger men to quickly drop the habit of powdering their hair.

Unusual for Freese, the miniature is signed bottom right – N. Freese / Pinx – which again suggests an artist at the very outset of his career. The portrait is in excellent fresh condition and is set in a simple gold band frame, the reverse glazed to show plaited brown hair.

Recent research has confirmed that Nicholas Freese was born around 1761 in Birmingham to a German father and an English mother but it was to London that he moved in order to practise as an artist. It is thought that he ceased painting commercially in 1814 following the death of his only son in the Peninsular War.

An interesting snippet published in John Bull in December 1825 records how Freese, who was then living at Stamford Street in Blackfriars, was burgled one night losing portrait miniatures and spoons worth over £40. Fortunately the thief was apprehended two miles away and the goods recovered, though the sentence that was handed down was a harsh one.

Item Ref. 7071

Size: framed, 57 x 47mm

Provenance: Ex. Harden Collection - Bonhams, 2011