Portrait miniature of a Gentleman, wearing dark blue coat with brass buttons and tied white cravat, his hair powdered, c.1790

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Object Description

Gold frame and hanger set with pearls, the reverse with central blue glass panel with pearl initials ‘JC’ surrounded by gold border and blonde plaited hair

Previously known simply as ‘N’ Freese, recent research conducted by the writers and collectors Roger and Carmela Arturi Phillips has added new information to the scant biographical details of this artist, including his forename. His father appears to been German, hailing from Hamburg and working in Birmingham as a ‘Merchant in Commerce’. In 1758, he married an Elizabeth Rowney and their son Nicholas, the future artist, may have been born in 1761/62.

Eventually Nicholas moved from Birmingham to the capital to pursue his training and artistic career, and by the time this portrait was painted during the 1790s he was established as a professional miniaturist. Some of his works have labels bearing his address at 411 Strand or 426 Strand, London. In 1791, around the time the present portrait was commissioned. Freese married at the church St Martin in the Fields and the couple had a son George and a daughter Mary, who became an actress. By 1794, Freese was exhibiting at the Royal Academy and he appears to have had a successful career well into his 60s.

The present work, still presented in its original locket set with seed pearls, is typical of his hand, particularly the distinctive short strokes which follow the outline of the head and body of the sitter in the blue background.

Object History

Christie’s, London, 28 May 2002, lot 61;
With Judy and Brian Harden Antiques;
Private Collection UK

Object Details

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