(British, 1762-after 1824)
Watercolor on ivory in a gold frame with glazed hair reverse and opalescent glass over pressed foil and cut gold (or cut paper)
Framed: 7.6 x 6.5 cm (3 x 2 9/16 in.); Unframed: 7 x 5.8 cm (2 3/4 x 2 5/16 in.)
Gift of J. H. Wade, Jr., G. G. Wade and Mrs. E. B. Greene 1926.229
The back contains a lock of hair arranged as a wheat sheaf cinched with a gold ribbon, over (now cracked) white opalescent glass.
Little biographical information is available about Nicholas Freese, who is often referred to as N Freese. He exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy from 1794 to 1814. Royal Academy records identify him as a “painter” rather than a “miniature painter.”
The unknown gentleman in this portrait is painted bust length in three-quarter view and facing right. He wears a blue coat with gold buttons over a white waistcoat and frilled cravat. His eyes are brown, and his powdered hair is worn en queue. There is a slightly yellow pallor to his complexion, and his nose is aquiline. The background is pale gray with a hint of green, executed with crosshatching, particularly near the edges. Freese combined watercolor with gouache, as is visible in the opaque white edges of the frilled cravat. He painted the hair using a technique in which watercolor pigment was applied then lifted away with a brush, creating channels suggesting thick, soft tendrils. The sitter’s bland, pleasant expression is not particularly individualized. His powdered hair and costume indicate that this miniature was executed around 1795–1800, when powdered hair was becoming increasingly unfashionable.
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