This portrait probably portrays a young woman on the occasion on her betrothal or marriage. By 1819 Thomas Hargreaves was well-established as one of Liverpool’s foremost portraitists, where he was not only able to serve the wealthy merchants of the city, but also had public access to one of the great collections of old master paintings at the newly opened ‘Liverpool Royal Institution’.
Hargreaves was born in Liverpool, the son of a woollen draper. He must have shown great talent at an early age, as by 1790 he was enrolled at the Royal Academy Schools in London. From 1793, he was apprenticed to Sir Thomas Lawrence, whose influence can be seen in his portrait miniatures throughout his career. Returning to Liverpool to recover from a bout of illness in 1795, he was back in London by 1797. From 1798 he began exhibiting at the Royal Academy, a practice he continued until a few years before his death.
In many ways, Hargreaves stayed close to his roots, establishing a studio painting miniatures in Liverpool from 1803. His return to his home town also allowed him to continue to assist his father with his drapery business. Hargreaves was also made a member of the Liverpool Academy, strengthening the links with his home town.
The City of Liverpool Library still holds 785 sketches for his miniatures and important examples of his work can be found at The Athenaeum Library and the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. Hargreaves died in Liverpool in 1847. At least two of his sons went on to become miniature painters in the family business ‘Hargreaves & Co.’.