Miniature self-portrait of John Smart thumbnail 1
Miniature self-portrait of John Smart thumbnail 2
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images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Portrait Miniatures, Room 90a, The International Music and Art Foundation Gallery

Miniature self-portrait of John Smart

Portrait Miniature
1797 (painted)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

When the miniature painter Ozias Humphry asked his fiancée to send a miniature of herself to him in India he asked specifically that she choose John Smart. Smart was about to arrive in India to set up as Humphry's rival, and it is likely that Humphry wanted to assess the competition. His reaction on receiving Smart's portrait somewhat critically sums up Smart's style, describing it as ‘extremely like’, her features rendered with ‘exactness’ but ‘certainly without any flattery’ and, he thought, ‘without air, or any grace in the disposition of it’.

This self portrait by Smart well illustrates those qualities that Humphry saw as defects but others clearly felt to be virtues. The modelling of the face is so precise, the concentration on the features so marked, that one can imagine Smart’s reputation for catching a likeness was deserved. Smart was a sober, quiet man, one who offered his clients direct honest facsimiles of their features. He has here painted himself in exactly that way.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Watercolour on ivory
Brief Description
Miniature self portrait on ivory by John Smart, British, 1797
Physical Description
Miniature self portrait on ivory depicting the artist in a green coat with his body in profile and face turned slightly towards the viewer.
Dimensions
  • Height: 87mm
  • Width: 70mm
Style
Credit line
Purchased with funds from the H. B. Murray Bequest
Subjects depicted
Summary
When the miniature painter Ozias Humphry asked his fiancée to send a miniature of herself to him in India he asked specifically that she choose John Smart. Smart was about to arrive in India to set up as Humphry's rival, and it is likely that Humphry wanted to assess the competition. His reaction on receiving Smart's portrait somewhat critically sums up Smart's style, describing it as ‘extremely like’, her features rendered with ‘exactness’ but ‘certainly without any flattery’ and, he thought, ‘without air, or any grace in the disposition of it’.



This self portrait by Smart well illustrates those qualities that Humphry saw as defects but others clearly felt to be virtues. The modelling of the face is so precise, the concentration on the features so marked, that one can imagine Smart’s reputation for catching a likeness was deserved. Smart was a sober, quiet man, one who offered his clients direct honest facsimiles of their features. He has here painted himself in exactly that way.
Bibliographic Reference
Summary Catalogue of Miniatures in the Victoria and Albert Museum, Emmett Microform, 1981
Collection
Accession Number
P.11-1940

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record createdFebruary 25, 2003
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