Portrait of an unknown woman thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Request to view at the Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F

Portrait of an unknown woman

Enamel Miniature
1765 (painted)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

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.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Enamel on metal
Brief Description
Portrait enamel of an unknown woman, dated 1765, enamel on metal, painted by Edward Shiercliff (fl. 1765-1786).
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.
Dimensions
  • Height: 67mm
  • Width: 55mm
Credit line
Purchased with funds from the Stephenson Bequest
Subjects depicted
Summary
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.
Bibliographic Reference
Victoria and Albert Museum, Department of Engraving, Illustration and Design and Department of Paintings, Accessions 1942, London: HMSO, 1955.
Collection
Accession Number
P.8-1942

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest Feedback

record createdJuly 10, 2003
Record URL