The Dragoons Officer

Charles Shirreff (1749-1829)


Although undeniably resplendent in his royal blue coat faced with red and embellished with silver braid and silver epaulettes, this officer is particularly striking for his thick blonde hair and side-burns. The extreme lightness of his hair contrasting with his darker eyebrows may have been a result of exposure to strong sun perhaps due to time spent serving in India where several Dragoons regiments were stationed during the late eighteenth, early nineteenth century.

The artist Charles Shirreff also found himself around that time fulfilling his ambition to work in India. The youngest son of a wealthy Scottish wine merchant, Shirreff went deaf at the age of three but was subsequently taught sign language and how to speak. Accompanied by his father he travelled to London in 1768 where he entered the Royal Academy Schools winning a silver medal for drawing. Shirreff went on to become a successful miniaturist and in 1778 obtained permission to travel to India. This ambition was not fulfilled though until 1797 by which time his father had died so he travelled alone. India suited him and his studio prospered but he decided to return to England in 1809 where he married and continued to paint and exhibit.

The portrait is set in a later gilt metal frame. There appears to be a small curved line of in-painting towards the bottom left perhaps to disguise some paint loss and some dust under the glass. Otherwise the miniature is fine with strong colouring.

Item Ref. 6224

Size: framed, 91 x 75mm + hanger