Webster's Dictionary defines a "masterpiece" as "a work done with extraordinary skill or artistic achievement." I have been fortunate enough lately to acquire several jewels which meet this criteria, and I am proud to present the "Masterpiece collection" for the consideration of my Ruby Lane clientele!
Dating to c.1710, this magnificent portrait slide is proof that great things can come in small packages! This beautiful portrait miniature features a watercolor and gouache on vellum portrait of a wealthy gentleman of fashion, and its pristine condition, rarity and great age all quality it for Masterpiece status! Measuring 1" long x 7/8" wide, this phenomenal work of art depicts a handsome, aristocratic gentleman in the prime of life!
Prior to c.1710, the preferred medium for portrait miniatures was vellum; painting on ivory was first invented by Bernard Lens, c.1707. This example is not only superbly-executed, but the subject is a handsome one! This gentleman, likely an English aristocrat during the reign of Queen Anne, is shown in 3/4 profile, and appears to be about 35 years old. He has blue eyes, a ruddy complexion, and an air of authority tempered by a gentle smile. The dimple in his chin makes him look quite boyish! He wears a powdered wig which spills in love-locks over his shoulders, a collarless green coat with braided trim and buttonholes, a matching vest, and a white lace-edged cravat with a stippled blue and brown pattern.
Note that the end of this gent's cravat is pulled through the sixth buttonhole of his vest; this style of cravat is known as the Steinkirk, and helps to date this portrait. This style of wearing the cravat claimed to derive from the French soldiers at the Battle of Steinkirk in 1692, who, surprised into action from rest, did not have time to arrange their cravats other than in this functional manner. The fashion spread throughout England and Europe the 1690s, and was in fashion until roughly 1720. (See the last photo of a Steinkirk cravat worn by a child, dated 1700.) The background of the portrait is painted royal blue, usually associated with members of the nobility.
What is truly incredible is that this detailed portrait is nearly photographic in its quality; it is over 300 years old, but one would recognize this gentleman if you saw him in the street today! As with the majority of portrait miniatures of this era, this example is not visibly signed. (It may be signed on the back, but I see absolutely no reason to disturb this important, all-original jewel.) The painting is mounted into a silver-gilt slide (sterling silver fire-gilded with high-karat gold), the reverse of which boasts a floral engraving, and is topped with a faceted Stuart crystal. The edges of the slide boast the "pie-crust" border work associated with English Stuart Crystals pre-dating 1720. This is not a mourning piece, however; it was likely commissioned for the sitter's wife or mother as a token of love and remembrance - perhaps this gentleman traveled far from home as an ambassador or a liaison for the Queen? The circumstances are lost to history, but this stunning portrait remains, and the painting, crystal and silver gilt slide are all in 100% original condition, without losses or repairs. SO IMPRESSIVE!
Weighing in at 6.24 grams, this Masterpiece in miniature can be worn with a ribbon threaded through the slides in the true early 18th-century fashion; it looks lovely on the wrist! It is certain to make a treasured addition to any collection of Stuart crystals or early portrait miniatures. It would also make a stellar gift for any lady or gentleman fond of early portrait miniatures, and will be shipped in a gift box. Do not miss this grand survival; up to 90 day layaway is available, and USPS Priority mail shipping is FREE!
Your Specialists in Fine Jewelry and Decorative Arts from Antiquity - 1900. Est. 1987.
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