Description William Russell Birch studied in London. Sir Joshua Reynolds, the leading British portrait painter of his day, commissioned Birch to make small enamel copies of his oil paintings to preserve a record of their colors in case the paintings faded. In 1794 Birch and his family emigrated to Philadelphia, then the capital and largest and wealthiest city in America. Birch brought with him a letter of recommendation from Benjamin West, and he soon set up shop painting enamel miniatures. He produced ca. 60 portraits of George Washington. Enamel was the favored medium for minuitures in England from ca. 1630 into the 18th century. Birch was the most acclaimed American miniaturists working in enamel. It is possible that this miniature shows an ancester of the previous owner, Sir John Peniston Milbanke. A candidate might be Sir Ralph Milbanke, 5th Baronet (who died in 1793).
Provenance Sir John Peniston Milbanke [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Mackay and Chisholm, Edinburgh [date and mode of acquisition unknown; E. F. Bonaventure (?), New York [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; William T. or Henry Walters, Baltimore [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Walters Art Museum, 1931, by bequest.
Inscriptions [Signed] Right: W. Birch / Pinxit / 1785 [Labels] On reverse (center): Mr. Milbank, in blue c... / order and ribbon loop set wi ... (botton) Makay and Chisholm / Goldsmiths / 57 Princes Street / Edinburgh.
Credit Acquired by William T. or Henry Walters
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