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Miniature - Portrait of an unknown man
  • Portrait of an unknown man
    Meyer, Jeremiah, born 1735 - died 1789
  • Enlarge image

Portrait of an unknown man

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    England (probably, painted)

  • Date:

    ca. 1780 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Meyer, Jeremiah, born 1735 - died 1789 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour on ivory

  • Credit Line:

    Alan Evans Bequest, given by the National Gallery

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Portrait Miniatures, Room 90a, The International Music and Art Foundation Gallery, case 10

This miniature, and its pair of the sitter’s wife (Museum no. Evans.166), show that a beautiful miniature need not be the preserve of the youthful and beautiful. It is Meyer who is generally seen as revolutionising the appearance of British miniatures on ivory from the 1760s. Painting in watercolour on ivory rather than vellum had led artists to work in a cautious manner. Ivory is oily and non-absorbent, and watercolour can be lifted from the ivory by any new brushstroke. This encouraged artists to lay colour on in careful dots and touches, side by side rather than blended. By the 1750s miniaturists had begun to find ways to improve the ivory surface and their painting techniques by cutting ivory more thinly and developing ways of removing excess grease. The flow of paint was also improved, allowing greater freedom of handling, which resulted in the watercolour being more transparent. Artists began to exploit the pleasing effect of the luminous ivory showing through the paint. Meyer was the first artist to realise fully the potential of these changes. He abandoned the use of cautious dots, and instead used the brush more adventurously, creating a graceful network of lines of varying length and colour, as can be seen in this superb miniature. The bravura of this technique, which allowed for no alterations, was quite unlike the careful, hesitant brushwork of earlier British artists working on ivory.

Physical description

Portrait miniature on ivory of an unknown man

Place of Origin

England (probably, painted)


ca. 1780 (painted)


Meyer, Jeremiah, born 1735 - died 1789 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour on ivory


Height: 76 mm, Width: 56 mm

Descriptive line

Portrait miniature of an unknown man by Jeremiah Meyer, paired with Evans.166, British, ca. 1780

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

Summary Catalogue of Miniatures in the Victoria and Albert Museum, Emmett Microform, 1981






Portraits; Paintings


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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