An exceedingly rare portrait miniature, done in watercolor on organic wafer, by John Miers (1756–1821) who was the most famous profilist or painter of silhouettes in Britain. (Actually, the term “silhouette” was not used until the 1830’s. Prior to that, black silhouettes were known as “shades,” “shadow portraits,” or “profiles.”) Although Miers was known to have done tens of thousands of shades, only a very few full color portrait miniatures are thought to exist.
The painting presented here is of a blue-eyed gentleman with an aristocratic bearing, wearing a white ruffled cravat and a black jacket. The verso of the case has a foil backed deep cobalt blue glass surrounding hairwork with centered "GCE" gold initials. Most importantly, a portion of one of Meirs’ trade cards backs the miniature (see the sixth photo), and a portion of the trade card of the case maker is also present (see the seventh photo).
The condition is excellent, with no bowing, cracks, chips, or restoration. Sight size is 2 ½” by 2 1/8”, and the overall size is 2 ¾” by 2 3/8”.
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE: Born in Leeds, Miers established a business first in Edinburgh, and then operated in various Northern towns before setting up studios in London around 1788 where he operated a very successful business recording customers profiles on ivory or plaster in "3 minute sittings". In 1785, Miers wrote on the back of one of his images, promoting the process: “preserves the most exact Symmetry and animated expression of the Features, much Superior to any other Method. Time of sitting one minute. N.B. He keeps the original Shades, and can supply those he has once taken with any number of Copies. Those who have Shades by them may have them reduced to any Size, and dress’d in the present taste.” Miers left a very large estate for that period of over £20,000. His sitters included King George III, Queen Charlotte, and Robert Burns, a friend of his.