Thrifting : antique children portraits

Images not to be used without permission

So… these are not my illustrations! I was at a thrift store looking for rustic frames and purchased these, which I assumed were prints. Intending to use the frames for my own work, I took the stickers off the glass, and opened one that had a ripped backing… only to discover it was a lot older than I realized, the dipped ink date reading 1815! Out of the frame I thought they were painted photographs, they seemed so realistic… but these date before that trend in history. On closer inspection I can see the brush strokes and that they are painted portraits. So… I have seven little portraits of children from around 1815, and would love to solve the mystery of who they are, where they were from, who the artist is. Any help or advice on researching this sort of antique portrait artwork would be appreciated!

Aug 29 : My cousin Elly forwarded this article to me on eighteenth century portrait miniatures… was not surprising to read that those few who could afford them were aristocrats or merchant elite.

Aug 29 : Chris Donnelly was very generous with his time and scoured the web for me, discovering British portrait painter Sir William John Newton, who lived at 38 Argyle, and whose style looks to match these little portraits. You can just make out the name “Newton” in the handwriting.

August 29 : I posted these pictures on an antique group on Facebook, and was given a lot of friendly input and advice, and have since submitted them to be appraised by Sotheby’s of England. (I keep being told I am a very lucky lady to have found these!) So we will see what the experts think about them.

I have been intrigued researching Sir William John Newton (1785-1869) and his painting style. He was a fashionable miniature portrait artist in London, including painting portraits of Queen Adelaide. He developed a technique where he joined thin pieces of ivory and painted on top, which gave the portraits a luminescent skin tone.

August 30 : Newton lived on Argyll St in London. The British Museum says Newton lived at 33 Argyll, but British History Online has extensive records of the aristocrats, nobles, craftsmen & architects who living there, and it lists Newton and his son lived at multiple locations on Argyll St (old map here.) The backing on my one opened portrait (see below) says 38 Argyll… which is a house number not listed in the records.

Newton also taught another successful portrait artist, Sir William Charles Ross, and examples of both their work are here (including a portrait of Miss Charlotte Cracroft by Newton that looks very similar to these children portraits.)

August 31 : Discovered through the Royal Collection Trust that Newton had a studio at both No.6 and No.33 Argyll St., London. I don’t know how my 38 Argyll fits in, unless the handwritten 8 is actually a 3? And he was the “Miniature Painter in Ordinary to William IV and Queen Adelaide” (1837-1838) Thought it was funny Queen Adelaide paid L100 for one of his works… would have been a lot of money back then, but doesn’t sound like a lot. Starving artists! Also from RCT, under the portrait of William IV it is typed out what was written behind the portraits… including the address 68 Argyll, and the word “Pinxit.” Which if you look at the writing I’ve photographed below, are the letters “inxi” which could have been Pinxit. Not sure what that means? I’ll look it up. My new favourite word… pinxit!


pinxit is the third-person singular perfect active indicative of pingō, with the meanings:
I decorate or embellish; I paint, tint or colour; I portray.

September 2 : The portraits of the children have been reunited with their parents!

(Images to not be used without permission)

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