Young & Dashing

John Downman


What is represented faithfully, not only delights, but is ever a soothing memoir. 

Thus wrote the artist John Downman about his completed portraits as he set about assembling them into groups. It can be assumed therefore that this portrait was a good likeness of the young officer whose identity has since been lost to history.

Wearing his regimental red coat with white facings and a gold epaulette, he holds his hat. It is though his distinctive wig that draws the eye. Voluminous curled wigs were not practical for the military so they opted for plaited pigtails that could be doubled back and tied. This gave better freedom of movement and would have been less stifling when in action.

The son of a Welsh attorney, John Downman (1750-1824) started drawing as a child. Initially educated in Chester and Liverpool, he entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1769 before spending time in Italy. Upon his return to London, his studio became a magnet for fashionable society. He was most successful with his small oval pastel and watercolour portraits and only required a single sitting to capture a likeness.

The portrait is set with the artist’s original watercolour wash mount within the original rectangular gilt wood frame. The portrait is in excellent condition; the frame is likewise in untouched condition.

Item Ref. 9113J

Size: portrait, 210 x 170mm ; framed, 355 x 318mm (14 x 12¼")

Provenance: Private UK Collection