Watercolor on ivory in a gold and seed pearl frame
Framed: 7.1 x 5.5 cm (2 13/16 x 2 3/16 in.); Unframed: 6.2 x 4.5 cm (2 7/16 x 1 3/4 in.)
The Edward B. Greene Collection 1943.651
This miniature is housed in its original gold frame set with real half pearls.
This unknown sitter has remarkably light blue eyes, a ruddy complexion, and powdered hair worn en queue. He wears a brown coat with a white cravat and waistcoat. The background is muddy brown. The miniature is housed in its original gold frame, which is set with genuine half pearls. This man was painted in 1789 when John Smart was working in Madras, India. He is probably a Madras civil servant or merchant.
This work is typical of Smart’s portraits of nonmilitary gentlemen living in India. Two other miniatures also painted by Smart in India in 1789 show striking similarities: Portrait of the Hon. Basil Cochrane and Portrait of Benjamin Torin. Like the CMA sitter, both of these gentlemen are dressed in dark coats with brass buttons, nearly identical cravats, and waistcoats. They wear their hair en queue, and a dusting of powder is visible on their wide coat collars. In each portrait the sheen of the skin, particularly on the nose, cheeks, and temples, suggests perspiration, a quality thrown into greater relief by the dull brown backgrounds. Although all three men wear a pleasant facial expression and are styled nearly identically, their facial features are highly distinctive and bear testimony to Smart’s capacity to capture a sitter’s likeness even when his production was in many ways systematized.
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