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Portrait miniature - Unknown boy, perhaps Sir Frederick Augustus D'Este (1794-1848)
  • Unknown boy, perhaps Sir Frederick Augustus D'Este (1794-1848)
    Cosway, Richard RA, born 1742 - died 1821
  • Enlarge image

Unknown boy, perhaps Sir Frederick Augustus D'Este (1794-1848)

  • Object:

    Portrait miniature

  • Place of origin:

    England (probably, painted)

  • Date:

    1799 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Cosway, Richard RA, born 1742 - died 1821 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour on ivory

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Mrs Emma Joseph

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

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

This work is almost contemporary with a portrait of another boy by Thomas Hazlehurst (Museum no. Evans.133). But while in this portrait the boy wears a form of trouser suit, in the other the boy wears what appears to be a dress. The striking difference between these two images of boyhood offers a telling commentary on the slowly shifting attitudes towards children at this time.

By 1800, although little boys still wore dresses for the first years of their lives, most generally did so for less than four years. When they reached the ‘breeching’ stage, when they abandoned their dresses, they no longer graduated immediately to miniature versions of adult clothes. Instead they were invariably dressed like this boy in a so called ‘skeleton suit’. This was easy and comfortable, and as the numerous portraits of the time show, encouraged the ‘boyish’ behaviour of which this boy's pugilistic stance seems typical. Although the infant mortality rate, even among the richer classes, was still very high, the child was slowly emerging as an individual, and childhood was becoming seen as a more distinct period in life. Cosway's miniature splendidly captures this spirit.

Physical description

Portrait of a boy with his sleeves pushed up and his arms crossed, standing against a sky background. He is dressed in a so-called "skeleton suit".

Place of Origin

England (probably, painted)


1799 (painted)


Cosway, Richard RA, born 1742 - died 1821 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour on ivory


Height: 89 mm, Width: 68 mm

Descriptive line

Portrait miniature of an unknown boy, perhaps Sir Frederick Augustus D'Este, dated 1799, painted on ivory by Richard Cosway (1742-1821).

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

Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Engraving, Illustration and Design and Department of Paintings, Accessions 1941, London: HMSO, 1954.


Watercolour; Ivory



Subjects depicted

Portrait; Children's clothing; Children (people by age group)


Portraits; Paintings; Children's clothes; Children & Childhood


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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