Object Description

wearing blue-green coat, white waistcoat and white cravat
Signed with monogram HE and dated 1788, set in a plain gold frame

This is an early work, painted when Edridge was 19, two years after he first began exhibiting at the R.A.

An engraving of 1805 inscribed The late celebrated Mr. Edwin, identifies the sitter. John Edwin “the elder” was the only son and eldest of three children of the watchmaker John Edwin and his wife Hannah, who was a daughter of Henry Brogden, a sculptor in York

He performed at the Smock Alley Theatre, Dublin, in 1765, at Bath, 1768, Covent Garden and the Haymarket in London, 1776. In the year in which this miniature was taken he acted in Crow Street Dublin.

He acted many comedy roles including Dogberry and Sir Anthony Absolute. John O’Keeffe wrote songs for him. In his ‘Recollections’ O’Keeffe bears frequent testimony to the merits of Edwin. Edwin was considered by George Colman to be the best burletta singer that the theatre had ever seen: ‘While he sung in a style which produced roars of laughter, there was a melody in some of the upper tones of his voice that was beautiful’. He was as celebrated for his occasional songs ‘in character’ as for his acting. His son, the younger John Edwin (1769?-1805) also became a popular and successful performer.

Edwin was literally a man of method- -he arranged all he meant to perform in his mind, before he gave execution to any particular intention-He knew that the best way to do much well, was to do every thing in rotation- this idea of progressive rectitude, he borrowed from the declarations of Sir Robert Walpole.

Edwin’s domestic life began to show strains after 1785 and it is reported that in 1789 he brought a new mistress to his residence in Bedford Street. Could it be that this miniature portrait was presented to his mistress, having been completed only a year earlier?.

A deeper insight into this fascinating man can be found in The eccentricities of John Edwin, comedian. Collected from his manuscripts, and enriched with several hundred original anecdotes, Arranged by Anthony Pasquin, Vol 11, printed for J Strahan, By John Williams, published in 1791.

Object History

C.W. Dyson Perrins, Sotheby’s, 11 December, 1958, lot 35
Sotheby’s, 18 July, 1988, lot 31

Object Literature

Basil S Long, British Miniaturists, London, 1924, p. 139

Object Condition

Good

Object Classification

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