Twinkling Eyes

Charles Hayter, 1797


The year 1797 is noted in the history books for diverse events including the introduction of the £1 note as well as the first appearance in public of the top hat worn by London haberdasher, John Hetherington. The hat was so tall and so shiny that people apparently felt intimidated by it – ladies fainted, children screamed and even the dogs were terrified! Hetherington was charged with inciting a riot and fined but a new fashion had been born. Meantime in ladies’ fashions, waistlines were being raised as the empire-line silhouette started to appear.

This finely painted portrait shows a young lady dressed in traditional white, her hair in a style known as a chignon flottant with short curls to the top and sides and loops of hair at the back.

Set against a clouded blue sky background, the portrait is signed bottom left HAYTER / 1797. It is in excellent condition and is set in the original gold frame that is glazed on the reverse to show a spray of blonde hair arranged with seed pearls and gold wire on opalescent glass. The unusual use of pink foil behind the glass lends it an attractive pinkish hue.

London-born, Charles Hayter (1761-1835) exhibited miniatures and crayon portraits between 1786 and 1832, primarily at the Royal Academy. He taught perspective to George IV’s daughter, Princess Charlotte, and wrote An Introduction to Perspective that ran to numerous editions. Despite going deaf in later life, he continued to paint to within a year of his death. His obituary described him as a ‘kind-hearted, intelligent and upright man’. The V & A Museum has an album containing 440 of his pencil studies for portrait miniatures as well two very fine miniatures by him.

Item Ref. 7075

Size: framed, 90 x 74mm + hanger