Early 19th-Century English School

Portrait Of A Gentleman

Early 19th-Century English School

Portrait Of A Gentleman

This early-19th-century English watercolour depicts a debonair young gentleman sporting the latest attire.

Inspired by the exuberance of Romanticism, fashion in the 1830s was a bold affair, which emphasised emotion over reason and celebrated unconstrained thought. Ladies wore pronounced sleeves and lavish headwear, while gents adopted a striking triangular silhouette with a tucked-in waist.

Here, this particular young chap is wearing a tailcoat, shirt with an upstanding collar, black cravat and waistcoat. Note also the slightly dishevelled hair - emphasising the untamed sublimity of the natural world. This may seem a little far-fetched for a hairstyle but the ideology of the Romantic period would’ve orchestrated much of this young man’s world.

For comparison, a portrait by François-Joseph Navez (1787-1869) depicting Théodore Joseph Jonet and his two daughters in 1832. 

Towards the end of the 1830s, shoulders became less pronounced and closely fitted, so it probably dates to between 1836-1840.

Held within a gilt frame.

Medium: Pencil and watercolour on paper
Overall size: 9½” x 10½” / 24cm x 27cm
Year of creation: c. 1840
Condition: A few areas of discolouration. Frame with some age-related wear.

Conservation & History

We care profoundly about our role as custodians and every piece in the collection has been assessed by our conservator. When required, we undertake professional restoration carefully using reversible techniques and adopt a light touch to retain the aged charm of each work. We also restore frames rather than replace them as many are original and selected by the artists themselves.

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