Although the identity of the sitter in this portrait miniature cannot be fully established, the most plausible sitter is Robert Buckley, a lieutenant in the 88th Regiment of Foot (or Connaught Rangers) from 4th January 1797. Although it is rare for a first name to be abbreviated in a monogram, the ‘BB’ on the reverse of this miniature may stand for ‘Bob’ Buckley. Portrait miniatures were far more intimate than formal portraits and this likeness is unusual in that the sitter is smiling. It is possible that the informality of this miniature also extended to an intimately abbreviated monogram – the name by which the recipient of the portrait knew him best.
Born into a wealthy merchant family, Nash had moved to London in the late 1790s to pursue his career as an artist. Unmarried, his family records that he was a hunchback who suffered from debilitating illness during his relatively short life. Nevertheless, he made the treacherous journey to India where this sensitive portrait was painted.
This sitter was an officer in the 88th Regiment of Foot, which was raised in September 1793 and was chiefly recruited in Connaught, Ireland. Styled ‘The Connaught Rangers’, the regiment embarked in 1799 for India, reaching Bombay early in 1800, a year before Nash arrived in the same city. He must have captured the likeness of this officer prior to the deployment of the regiment to Egypt for two years. The regiment eventually joined Wellington’s army in the Peninsular in 1808. It was during these campaigns that the 88th distinguished itself, leading Wellington to describe it as ‘that most astonishing infantry’ and where it later earned the moniker of ‘The Devil’s Own’. The troops also had the reputation of being the worst plunderers in the British Army, the military historian Arthur Bryant describing them thus; ‘The 88th were a tough crowd from the bogs of western Ireland … But they were born fighters and their Scottish Colonel, Alexander Wallace, made them one of the crack regiments of the army.’
Gilt-metal frame, the reverse with central blue glass panel with seed pearl monogram ‘BB’, with dark auburn hair surround.