Portrait of General Sir Charles Grey, later 1st Earl Grey

Portrait of General Sir Charles Grey, later 1st Earl Grey

1794

Henry Bone

(British, 1755-1834)

Enamel in a gilt metal frame

Framed: 9.6 x 8 cm (3 3/4 x 3 1/8 in.); Sight: 8.9 x 7.3 cm (3 1/2 x 2 7/8 in.)

The Edward B. Greene Collection 1949.550

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Description

Unlike fragile portrait miniatures painted in watercolor on vellum or ivory, which are prone to cracking, fading, and flaking, enamels are resilient, impervious to the effects of light, and retain their striking original colors over time. Partly for this reason enamel was considered ideal for reproducing famous paintings and treasured portraits in a reduced and luminous form. The complicated and labor-intensive process of enameling required the artist to fire numerous layers of colored metal oxide at different temperatures. This process made it difficult to produce a faithful portrait likeness, though masters of the medium were able create portraits of remarkable subtlety imbued with the sitter's personality. Henry Bone ushered in an enamel renaissance during the late 1700s with his miniatures, which include sensitive and elegant works like this portrait of General Sir Charles Grey, after a portrait by his contemporary Thomas Lawrence. An innovator of new techniques, Bone retained the brilliance and purity of colors in layered glass enamel while achieving fine, naturalistic details by using overglazes for the faces.

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