James H. Gillespie


James H. Gillespie was a prolific Anglo-American miniaturist. Born in 1793, he began painting before 1815. By 1820 he claimed to have completed 17,000 likenesses. Gillespie toured the market towns throughout the Midlands into Northern England and the Scottish Borders. At each location he painted on average 500 profiles in a variety of styles. He was particularly busy in the fast-growing town of Preston where he painted nearly 1,100 likenesses but was less popular in Daventry where he only received 160 commissions. Around 1825 Gillespie left the British Isles for a new life in Nova Scotia from where he worked his way down the east coast of America.

Gillespie painted in a variety of styles from plain black silhouettes through monochrome profiles with detailed features to full colour profiles. His monochrome profiles set against dark backgrounds are distinctive and easily recognisable as painted by his hand.

Even with this limited palette, Gillespie conveys remarkable detail on these monochrome portraits: the tiny buttons that run down the boy’s skeleton suit and his ruff collar; the ribbon bows on the girl’s dress and her beaded necklace. No biographical details have survived with these but the children appear so similar in age that they are likely to be twins.

Painted on card and in excellent condition, the portraits are housed in the original matching papier-mâché frames with emblem (rose, thistle and shamrock) hangers.

Item Ref. 5842

Size: framed, 125 x 103mm (4⅞ x 4⅛")