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Portrait miniature - The Hon. Charles North

The Hon. Charles North

  • Object:

    Portrait miniature

  • Place of origin:

    England (painted)

  • Date:

    ca. 1690 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Ashfield, Edmund (painter)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour on vellum put down on a leaf from a table-book

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case RMC, shelf 1, box H

The word ‘miniature’ describes a technique of painting in watercolour rather than the size of a painting. Miniature painting developed as a separate art in the 16th century and in Britain it became predominantly a portrait art.

This miniature is one of a group of five portraits of members of the North family attributed to Edmund Ashfield (worked 1669–90) by John Murdoch in Seventeenth-century English Miniatures in the Collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum (1997). The attribution to Ashfield is based on the signature ‘E. A.’ found lower centre right on one of the miniature of ‘Charles North, 5th Baron North de Kirtling’. Edmunch Ashfield was a painter in oil and ‘crayon’ (what is today called pastel), but it was long thought that he had also painted miniatures. This group apparently supports this idea.

Physical description

Portrait of a boy, half-length, turned to right and facing to front. Features hatched and stippled in brown and sanguine, blended with blue and yellow and some opaque touches of white, especially in the eyes, on a warm carnation ground; hair a brown wash, hatched, lined and stippled in darker colour and with some opaque pale brown for the lights; the cravat in pale grey, modelled in brown and thick impasted white; the costume in loose red and blue washes, modelled in darker colour, the fringe of the robe in brown, on bare vellum, hatched with gold; background in smooth, even grey washes; on vellum put down on a leaf from a table-book.

Frame: An oval frame, turned ebony of bolection moulding with additional grooves at the outer and inner edges; the inner ring possibly made separately; the convex glass set in a rebate; a plain brass ring for the hanger, with traces of original gilding, held by a pin driven through the wood at the top. Inscribed on a paper label on the backboard: Charles North.

Place of Origin

England (painted)


ca. 1690 (painted)


Ashfield, Edmund (painter)

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour on vellum put down on a leaf from a table-book

Marks and inscriptions

Inscribed in silver-point on the back


Height: 71 mm, Width: 58 mm

Object history note

Provenance: Until 1690, Charles, 5th Baron North de Kirtling; until 1734, William, 6th Baron; his wife, Maria Margareta (born ‘de jonge van Ellemete’). who married secondly in 1735 Patrick Murray, 5th Lord Elibank; his illegitimate son Patrick Murray of Simprim, Forfarshire (d.c.1854); his daughter Maria Margaretta (d.1873) who married in 1842 James, Baron Talbot de Malahide; her eldest daughter Susan-Ann, who married in 1864 Cecil St John Ives, subsequently Major-General; their second daughter Marion who married her third husband in 1923, Godfrey Waiter, 2nd Baron Phillimore; she died in 1950; the miniatures sold to the Museum by private treaty with two of her heirs, 1987.

Descriptive line

Portrait miniature of the Hon. Charles North when a child, watercolour on vellum by Edmund Ashfield, ca.1690.

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

Murdoch, John. Seventeenth-century English Miniatures in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: The Stationery Office, 1997.


Watercolour; Vellum



Subjects depicted

Child; Boy


Portraits; Paintings; Children & Childhood


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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