Considering the physical likeness of Sir John Germain in a full-length portrait at Drayton House in Northamptonshire, this miniature is unlikely to depict the same sitter. Stylistically, this portrait almost certainly dates to the 1660s when Germain was no older than a teenager. The gentleman in this miniature is in his late twenties or early thirties.
Painted by Richard Gibson, the well-known seventeenth-century miniaturist, also known as ‘Dwarf Gibson’ in his circle, this unidentified gentleman was undoubtedly a nobleman. Richard Gibson was born in Cumberland and worked as an apprentice in a tapestry works before entering the household of Philip Herbert 4th Earl of Pembroke. By 1639 he was employed in the court as a ‘Page of the Back-Stairs’, experiencing great popularity with the King.
Through the catalogue of Abraham van der Doort, keeper of the royal collection, we know that by this point Gibson was actively painting, for the former recounts the artist copying ‘the Picture of Adonis Venus Cupid and some doggs by Peter Oliver after Titian’. Following Pembroke’s death, Gibson attached himself to Charles, 2nd Earl of Carnarvon, Pembroke’s grandson, and throughout the Interregnum painted many people of that circle including Lady Elizabeth Dormer [V&A] and Elizabeth, Countess of Carnarvon [Scottish National Portrait Gallery; exhibited at Philip Mould & Co ‘Warts and All’ 2013 no.37].
By the Restoration, Gibson was tremendously successful and by the late 1660s he changed his signature from ‘DG’, for ‘Dwarf’ or maybe ‘Dick’ to ‘RG’ for Richard, a pertinent display of his new status. After Cooper’s death Gibson was pronounced the King’s Limner, however one year later was succeeded by Nicholas Dixon, and appointed drawing-master to the Duke of York’s daughters. Gibson had five surviving children by his wife Anne, including most notably Susannah-Penelope Rosse, a successful portrait miniaturist who, as well as painting copies of works by Samuel Cooper, also had a prestigious clientele of her own.
The previous owner of this portrait miniature was Robert Bayne-Powell, an art historian and lawyer who was made Senior Registrar in the Family Division of the High Court. Following Bayne-Powell’s death in 1994 his extensive collection of portrait miniatures was dispersed by Sotheby’s. Bayne-Powell’s interest in portrait miniatures led to his appointment in 1976 as Honorary Keeper of portrait miniatures at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. He produced the definitive catalogue of miniatures in the museum’s collection which was published in 1985.