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A Ring with a View - Georgian Portrait Miniature

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Item 10242

Wearable art is certainly not a 20th century invention. For hundreds of years miniature portraits were cherished, held and worn as well as bedecking walls and dressing stands. Beyond museum quality, this exceedingly scarce example of the genre dates from the late 18th century. Classicism reared its gracious head ousting more than a century's worth of the baroque and rococo excesses of royals and their court. In its place repose with an austere, quiet and ordered geometry interspersed with refinement.

The ground is composed entirely of gouache (white mixed with color). In consequence we cannot determine if this is painted on ivory, parchment or paper. Not an issue with which to contend as the result is beyond compare. Rarest of the miniatures are portraits of landscapes and countryside. Most often people are rendered; in this case a landscape painted down to the minutest of details.

Impossible to capture fully in photographs, the background depicts the sky and, in deeper azure blue, mountains with a still lake before it. A town with turreted towers and brown roofs dots the shore. Two sailing vessels are harbored in the cove. In the foreground, three people appear vigilant at the water's edge. Two more, standing beside a tent-like structure, are deep in conversation. On each side trees with jade dappled leaves arch over the scene. All within an area less than the size of a nickel coin.

The portrait is set under glass which has not been removed or replaced. Gold verre eglomise (gold painted on the underside of the glass) rims the landscape scene adding an additional visual border. The ring is of 15k gold and is all original with its characteristically convex smooth back and flared and reeded shank. Notice the scroll-like attachment points very typical of mid and later 18th century rings. In its entirety measuring 15/16 of an inch long (2.4 cm) and 13/16 of an inch in length (2 cm) for the miniature. The width is 3/4 of an inch (1.9 cm) and 5/8 of an inch (1.5 cm) for the miniature. It is currently a size US 6-1/2 (UK M; Euro just under a 17; and 12.5 mm).

Condition: the miniature itself is vivid in coloration with no fading. There are numerous minute flecks of black in the interior. When worn this is hardly visible and shows only upon very close inspection or with magnification. The glass has some wear; it has not been removed and the bezel remains intact. The shank does not appear to have been resized but long ago the attachment points from the shank to the underside may have been reinforced. There is light surface wear and a few light scratches along with old jewelers reference numbers (typical of 19th century jewelers) on the reverse. Otherwise, very fine and original. Provenance: from the original English family to the heirs.