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Enamel miniature - Portrait of an unknown woman

Portrait of an unknown woman

  • Object:

    Enamel miniature

  • Place of origin:

    England (probably, painted)

  • Date:

    1765 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Shiercliffe, Edward (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Enamel on metal

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased with funds from the Stephenson Bequest

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case RMC, shelf 8, box Deep drawer

This portrait is painted in enamel on metal. The advantage of enamel over traditional miniature painting (watercolour painted on vellum or, from about 1700, on ivory) is that it does not fade when exposed to light. The process of painting with enamels is, however, less free than the miniature technique and is fraught with danger. The first colours to be laid on the metal support have to be those needing the highest temperature when firing. More colour is added and the enamel refired, the process ending with the colours needing the lowest temperature. Such labour meant that it was an expensive option.

Enamel was first practised in England in the 1630s by the Swiss goldsmith Jean Petitot at the court of Charles I. It was reintroduced around 1680 by a Swede, Charles Boit, and achieved wide popularity with the work of Christian Friedrich Zincke of Germany. Both Boit and Zincke were goldsmiths by training. In the early 18th century a number of miniaturists took up enamel in order to offer their clients a choice. But as the market for all portraiture grew and as miniature painters worked on ivory with increasing confidence and bravura, enamel painters decided to learn their rivals’ art. Nonetheless, Edward Shiercliffe, who painted this rather dashing enamel portrait, seems to have specialised in enamel painting.

Physical description

Quarter length portrait enamel of an unknown woman, wearing a white hat and white gown with two pink roses pinned to the front, and pearl earrings and necklace.

Place of Origin

England (probably, painted)


1765 (painted)


Shiercliffe, Edward (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Enamel on metal


Height: 67 mm, Width: 55 mm

Descriptive line

Portrait enamel of an unknown woman, dated 1765, enamel on metal, painted by Edward Shiercliff (fl. 1765-1786).

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

Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Engraving, Illustration and Design and Department of Paintings, Accessions 1942, London: HMSO, 1955.


Enamel; Metal



Subjects depicted

Pearls; Hat; Portrait; Roses


Portraits; Paintings


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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