An extremely fine watercolor and gouache on organic substrate miniature portrait done by Henry Benbridge, painted in his crisp, realistic style. The sitter is attired in a blue coat and a white ruffled shirt and collar, the fabrics of which are carefully and richly depicted, a characteristic of Benbridge's work. The surround to the painting is gold, while the original case, with a pin on the reverse, is gold filled.
Both the painting and the case are in excellent condition. The sight size of the painting is 1 3/8" by 1 1/16", with a case size of 1 5/8" by 1 1/4".
BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE: Henry Benbridge (1743 - 1812) was born in Philadelphia and studied there with John Wollaston. At the age of 21 he travelled to Italy, remaining there and studying his craft for 4 years. He then went to London for a year and became associated with painter Benjamin West, a relative by marriage, who was very helpful to him as was American statesman, Benjamin Franklin, to whom he had a letter of introduction. While in London he exhibited two portraits, one of Franklin, at the Royal Academy of Arts.
Returning to Philadelphia in 1770 he married miniaturist Letitia Sage, who had studied with Charles Wilson Peale. They then settled in Charleston, where he succeeded Jeremiah Theus as the most prominent portraitist of distinguished local residents, also painting numerous miniatures.
When the British captured Charleston in 1780, Benbridge refused allegiance to them and was exiled to Saint Augustine, Florida for two years. He was released in 1783, and returned to Charleston, where he again had many portrait commissions, this time among people who shared his political loyalties. After 1790, he did few paintings, likely because of ill health, but he did give lessons around 1800 to Thomas Sully, who was living in Norfolk, Virginia. Benbridge probably lived in Norfolk with his son and family between 1800 and 1810, and moved with them to Baltimore in 1810.
When and where Benbridge died is unknown, but he was buried in Philadelphia in 1812.
Because of his importance both as an early American miniaturist, and the quality of his painting, Benbridge's works are highly sought after and collected, scarce though they may be. Examples are in the Metropolitan Museum and other major American art museums.