The Dress Wig

William Prewett (fl. 1735-1750)


The full-bottomed wig with long flowing curls was the wig of choice for aristocratic and professional gentlemen during the early eighteenth century. The wig was powdered afresh each morning and pomade was used to create a shine and hold the curls in place. Pomade was a greasy substance often made from bear fat so scent was usually added to the powder to mask the smell. For the more flamboyant wearers, colour could also be added to the powder.

Being more mature in years, this gentleman has not opted to colour his wig. He has though tied the end of it in a neat knot. His brown coat has gold buttons and is lined with scarlet.

Painted in enamel on copper, the portrait is set in the original silver frame with decorative detailing on the reverse and a spiral hanger. Under magnification, there is some small ash debris from the firing process visible under the glass.

William Prewett (or Prewitt) was born in Suffolk and trained under the Swiss enamellist Zincke. His clientele included King George II (miniature held in the V&A Museum) and Horace Walpole.

Item Ref. 5861

Size: 49 x 41mm +hanger

Provenance: Sotheby's, 16 December 1998 ; With Philip Mould 2017