The Artist’s Friend

James Scouler


Seated on an upholstered chair, this learned and wise-looking gentleman wears a powdered wig tied with black ribbon en queue and with rolled curls known as buckles. His navy blue coat is teemed with a matching waistcoat and frilled stock.

Thanks to the safe retention of the miniature’s original backing paper, the sitter is revealed as James Bird painted in 1789, a friend of the artist James Scouler. It’s not been possible to discover any more of Bird’s story as there was a surprising number of children baptised ‘James Bird’ during the 1720s and 1730s. The sitter may, however, be American as the (privately owned) miniature is recorded by the National Portrait Gallery of Washington in their digital Catalog of American Portraits.

The well-painted portrait retains its strong original colouring and resides in a handsome gold frame with a decorative rim front and back, the reverse displaying foiled blue glass. The miniature is set within a custom-made silk-lined leather case with an easel stand as commissioned by D S Lavender Antiques.

The son of an organ builder and music shop owner, James Scouler was born in Edinburgh in 1741. He showed artistic talent from an early age and his family’s relocation to London enabled him to study at St Martin’s Lane Academy. He exhibited widely from 1761. His finest work, of which this is an example, is painted with great precision and aptitude.

APHA Registered

Item Ref. 9056M

Size: framed, 77 x 62mm

Provenance: D.S. Lavender ; Private UK Collection