Object Description

This portrait enamel, by the Italian-born artist Gaetano Manini (known as ‘Chevalier Manini’), depicts King George III in profile and may relate to the portrait painted by Allan Ramsay in circa 1761-2.[1] Ramsay’s portrait was probably also the starting point for the enamel painted by Jeremiah Meyer and gifted as an engagement present from George III to his future wife, Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, in 1761. Set in an oval of diamonds in a pearl bracelet, Charlotte is subsequently depicted wearing this bracelet in several of her portraits by Reynolds, Zoffany, West, Lawrence and Beechey.

George III was born on 4th June 1738, the son of Frederick, Prince of Wales, and Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha. Following Frederick’s unexpected demise, he succeeded to the throne on the death of his grandfather in 1760, reigning for almost sixty years. As the first Hanoverian monarch to speak English as his first language, George soon gained the admiration of the nation. His marriage, in 1761, to Princess Charlotte, may well have been the cause for the commission of this particular enamel by Manini. The separately constructed enamelled floral border is unusual, adding a decorative element to the portrait. The enamel was likely to have been a gift from the king to a courtier or diplomat attending the royal nuptials.

Gaetano Manini had arrived in England some time during the 1750s, exhibiting at the Free Society of Arts from 1761-1772. Portrait enamels of the king’s elder brother, Frederick, Prince of Wales survive but it is not known whether enameller and heir apparent met or whether these are posthumous portraits.[1] Another portrait by Manini of George III is in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, suggesting that on some level he had made an introduction to the Royal family. Manini’s technique and choice of enamel colouring were not always appreciated by his contemporaries. Edwards (in his Anecdotes of Painting) noted that ‘His compositions were extremely frivolous and his colouring gaudy’, while Horace Walpole called his allegory The Sun entering Leo (in which George III as the Sun is drawn by a lion and a unicorn), ‘ridiculous’.

[1] Several versions of this portrait exist, a copy from the studio was sold by the Philip Mould Gallery: http://www.historicalportraits.com/Gallery.asp?Pag…(1738-1820-%7C-Studio-of-Allan-Ramsay

[2] See the Royal Collection for examples RCIN 421801, circa 1750 and the double portrait of Frederick and Augusta dated 1758 (RCIN 421944)

Object Condition

Enamel (with restored firing crack)

Object Classification

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