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  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    1768 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Macpherson, James (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Enamel on copper, set in a rectangular, ormolu frame

  • Credit Line:

    The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

  • Museum number:

    LOAN:GILBERT.267:1 to 3-2008

  • Gallery location:

    Gold, Silver and Mosaics, Room 71, The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Galleries, case 7, shelf DU2 []

This man, wearing an overcoat, may be a peasant figure. Rustic life was a popular subject during this period.

The practice of painting portrait miniatures in enamels developed out of the decorative work of goldsmiths and watchmakers in the French cities of Blois, Châteaudun and Paris. Portrait plaques had been made in the enamelling workshops of Limoges in central France during the 16th century, but in the 1630s, Jean Toutin adapted existing techniques to make the subtle colouring and delicate detail of enamel miniatures possible. Small objects like watches or snuffboxes were ideally suited to this technique and many were decorated with portraits and mythological or allegorical scenes. Artists throughout Europe continually refined their approaches to painting enamel portraits. While 17th century enamellers used a very fine stipple to create light and shade in their miniatures, artists in the 18th century began to use larger brushstrokes for a more fluid effect.

Sir Arthur Gilbert and his wife Rosalinde formed one of the world's great decorative art collections, including silver, mosaics, enamelled portrait miniatures and gold boxes. Arthur Gilbert donated his extraordinary collection to Britain in 1996.

Physical description

Oval portrait miniature depicting an elderly man with white hair and a beard, a blue shirt and a red jacket. The miniature is enamel on copper and the original gold rim frame is set in a later rectangular ormolu frame with laurel borders.

Place of Origin

England (made)


1768 (made)


Macpherson, James (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Enamel on copper, set in a rectangular, ormolu frame

Object history note

Provenance: D.S. Lavender, London, 01/10/1981.

Descriptive line

Enamel miniature on copper, set in a rectangular, ormolu frame, England, 1768, by James Macpherson.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Coffin, Sarah and Bodo Hofstetter. Portrait Miniatures in Enamel. London: Philip Wilson Publishers Ltd. in association with the Gilbert Collection, 2000. 168 p., ill. Cat. no. 38, pp. 85-86. ISBN 0856675334.

Labels and date

Old man
About 1770

This man, wearing an overcoat, may be a peasant figure.
Rustic life was a popular subject in this period.

England; James (Giuseppe) MacPherson (1726– about 1780)
Enamel on copper in original pendant gold-rim frame
(formerly hinged, now fixed)
Signed on front right edge ‘Macpherson pinx’;
the number ‘2768’ on counter-enamel
Museum no. Loan: Gilbert.267:1-2008 [2009]


Enamel; Copper; Gold; Ormolu


Painting (image-making); Framing

Subjects depicted



Enamels; Metalwork; Portraits


Metalwork Collection

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