Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Gold, Silver and Mosaics, Room 71, The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Galleries

Miniature

1825 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Instead of painting from life, enamellers often copied well-known oil paintings, such as this one of American general and first US president George Washington (1732-99). This gave members of the public the opportunity to own an image of a public figure. Henry Bone's inscription on the reverse of this miniature reveals how difficult the firing process was, as he records that the enamel 'cracked in the fifth fire,' or firing.

In the 17th century, new techniques of painting enamels allowed delicate portraits resembling tiny oil paintings to be created. These enamel miniatures were first fashionable in continental Europe, but were particularly in vogue in Britain from the 1720s to 1760s. Painted enamels were made by firing finely milled glass which had been coloured with metal oxides onto a metal base, usually gold or copper. The colours had to be applied and fired in several stages, according to the firing temperature required by each colour. Incredible precision was needed for a successful enamel portrait, since each firing carried risks of cracks and bubbles that might ruin the entire effort.

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.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Enamel on copper, ormolu
Brief Description
Enamel miniature on copper of George Washington, in an ormolu frame, England, 1825, by Henry Bone R.A. (1755-1834).
Physical Description
Rectangular portrait miniature of George Washington shown full-length in a black suit and frilled cravat holding a sword in his left hand and standing beside a table with books with a red curtain in the background. The frame is of ormolu.
Dimensions
  • Height: 39.2cm
  • Width: 28.65cm
  • Depth: 2.24cm
Marks and Inscriptions
  • Signed 'HBone' and dated (On the front)
  • Inscribed 'General George Washington / President of the United States / of America / London / 1825 / Painted by Henry Bone R.A. / Enamel painter to His Majesty and / En.L painter to His R.H. The Duke of York / &c&c After the Original painted / in America by Gabriel Stewart, and / now in the possession of - Williams Esq.r / of Finsbury Square - London. / N.B. - Cracked in the 5th fire / & finished by the permission of / Mr. Williams from the Original / picture.' (On the counter enamel)
  • Inscribed 'Enamel HBone. R.A.' (On the matte)
Gallery Label
  • 7. George Washington 1825 Enamellers often copied well-known oil paintings, such as this one of the first US president, George Washington (1732–99). Henry Bone inscribed on the reverse how difficult the firing was, noting that the enamel ‘cracked in the fifth fire’. England; Henry Bone (1755–1834), after Gilbert Stuart (1755–1828) Enamel on copper in gilded copper-alloy frame Museum no. Loan:Gilbert.230-2008(16/11/2016)
  • George Washington 1825 Enamellers often copied well-known oil paintings, such as this one of the first US president, George Washington (1732–99). Henry Bone inscribed on the reverse how difficult the firing was, noting that the enamel ‘cracked in the fifth fire’. England; Henry Bone (1755–1834), after Gilbert Stuart (1755–1828) Enamel on copper in gilded copper-alloy frame Museum no. Loan: Gilbert.230-2008(2009)
Credit line
The Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Collection on loan to the Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Object history
Provenance: Bone sale, 1832. Sale, Christie's, London, lot 48, March 19, 1980.
Production
after Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828)
Subjects depicted
Summary
Instead of painting from life, enamellers often copied well-known oil paintings, such as this one of American general and first US president George Washington (1732-99). This gave members of the public the opportunity to own an image of a public figure. Henry Bone's inscription on the reverse of this miniature reveals how difficult the firing process was, as he records that the enamel 'cracked in the fifth fire,' or firing.



In the 17th century, new techniques of painting enamels allowed delicate portraits resembling tiny oil paintings to be created. These enamel miniatures were first fashionable in continental Europe, but were particularly in vogue in Britain from the 1720s to 1760s. Painted enamels were made by firing finely milled glass which had been coloured with metal oxides onto a metal base, usually gold or copper. The colours had to be applied and fired in several stages, according to the firing temperature required by each colour. Incredible precision was needed for a successful enamel portrait, since each firing carried risks of cracks and bubbles that might ruin the entire effort.



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.
Bibliographic References
  • Walker, Richard. 'Henry Bone's Pencil Drawings in the National Portrait Gallery', The Walpole Society, Vol. LXI, no. 106, 1999, p. 218.
  • 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. 14, pp. 60-63. ISBN 0856675334.
Other Numbers
  • 1996.776.1 - The Gilbert Collection, Somerset House
  • MIN 11 - Arthur Gilbert Number
  • MM 297 - Arthur Gilbert Number
Collection
Accession Number
LOAN:GILBERT.230-2008

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record createdJune 26, 2008
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