Although the artist is unconfirmed, this enamel miniature of King William III (1650-1702) would have been painted around 1700. Thus it is about 300 years old, and one of the oldest miniatures in the collection.
However, one kind visitor has offered the comment that the enamel is by an artist whose works usually depict William III and Mary in a quite crude and stiff manner, and with a “woolly” technique.
Apparently the owner of the “Dumas-Egerton Trust”, a large and respected private collection of portrait miniatures, attributes the William and Mary groups to Michael Rosse (1650-1735), the jeweller and enamellist husband of Susan Penelope Rosse (1652-1700). She was also a miniature painter who painted a number of miniatures each about 25mm high.
It is understood the owner of the Trust knows a work signed on the reverse “MR” which confirms his theory.
As mentioned below, the reverse of this enamel cannot be inspected, but in the absence of such an inspection, an attribution of this miniature of William III to Michael Rosse is felt to be a reasonable supposition.
An unattributed miniature in the British Royal Collection of William and Mary is shown here. It is only 25mm x 22mm and is on vellum, rather than enamel, but a likeness with the features on the miniature of William III is apparent.
The William III miniature is also very small at 28mm x 25mm and is contained within a later silver locket which is probably 200-250 years old. There must have been a different frame at an earlier stage as there are tiny holes on the sides and bottom of the case where the case would have fitted into a more elaborate fitting.
The rear of the case is engraved "MAB" which is probably the name of a later owner.
Unfortunately the miniature is wedged into the case and hence the counter enamel cannot be inspected to see if there is a signature on the reverse.
However, in several places on the extreme edge there appears to be signs of gold. Thus it is believed to be enamelled on a gold ground. Enamelled miniatures first appeared around the mid 17C and initially had a gold base, but it was later realised that it was a waste of gold, as the gold could not been seen. Hence copper substituted for gold during the 18C.
On can also speculate where the gold may have come from. No doubt in the 21C it would be possible to use a chemical process to determine the likely source from the impurities in the gold. However, until that happens I would like to think the gold reached England after have been "liberated" from a Spanish treasure galleon, taken as a prize when returning from the America's!
Having regard to the age, the condition is outstanding. If any reader shares my enthusiasm for watching archaeology programmes like "Time Team", you will know how excited the archaeologists get over small shards of broken pottery from around 1700! In my mind a miniature of similar same age is just as exciting.
Further confirmation of the identity of the sitter as William III can be had from a comparison with other contemporary images and in particular by his beaked nose.
The image on the right is an enamel miniature from the British Royal Collection. It is the same size at 28mm x 25mm. The image on the left is an English school enamel of around 1700 and is part of the Dutch Royal Collection. It is slightly smaller in size at 24mm x 16mm. Miniatures of this size were often given by the monarch as a gift of allegiance.
So far an identical pose has not been found, although within the National Portrait Gallery in London there is an engraved image which is the most similar image so far located. The engraving is shown on the right.
As an engraving is often a mirror image of the original portrait, a "flipped" version of the image is shown on the left for easier comparison.
As can be seen, the left frill on the white jabot around his neck is pointed or leaf-shaped, in the same way as the miniature. However, on the miniature the ruff on the jabot is leaf-shaped on the right side as well. Thus so far no other portrait of William III with two leaf-shaped ruffs has been found.
William III looks older in the miniature, than in all the other portraits, so it would seem the miniature relates to the end of his reign, as he died at age 52 in 1702. William died of pneumonia, a complication from a broken collarbone, resulting from a fall off his horse. It was believed by some that his horse had stumbled into a mole's burrow, and as a result many Jacobites toasted "the little gentleman in the black velvet waistcoat."
William III was born two weeks after his father's death, who had been William II of the Netherlands. When William was 27 years old he married (14th November, 1677) a 15-year-old – Henrietta Mary Stuart – known as Mary, the daughter of James II (the heir-apparent and brother to the ruling Charles II of England). The union proved to be very popular and also allied William with the English monarchy.
William III won the English, Scottish and Irish Crowns following the Glorious Revolution, during which his uncle and father-in-law, James II, was deposed. In England, Scotland and Ireland, William ruled jointly with his wife, Mary II, until her death of smallpox on 28 December 1694. He reigned as 'William II' in Scotland, but 'William III' in all his other realms. Often he is referred to as William of Orange, a name he shared with many other historical figures. In Northern Ireland and Scotland, he is often informally known as King Billy.
There are many Internet references to him. One that is of special interest to American citizens is at Colonial Virginia - Williamsburg Virginia Official Site - Guide ... as Williamsburg in Virginia is named for him. 1298