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John Linnel (1792 - 1882):
Portrait of a Young Man, 1829
Framed (ref: 9316)
Signed with initials and dated 1829
Watercolour on ivory,
4 1/2 x 3 3/8 in. (11.5 x 8.5 cm) - the shape slightly curved to follow the form of the tusk
Provenance: The Fortunoff Collection
Unfortunately it has not been possible to identify the sitter as Linnell's notebooks from this period are very far from complete. Given the iconography, the subject was probably the mid-teenage son of a well-to-do county family destined for the Navy. It was customary at this period, in both aristocratic and landed families, for the eldest son to inherit the property - and title if there was one - the second son would go into the navy and the third into the church. The possibility of never seeing their son again for such parents was great. Once at sea the boy could be away for years, and by the time he returned to England one, or both, of his parents might be dead. Equally the boy himself could be dead either though battle or fever.
Either way, a miniature portrait by Linnell would have been a treasured family keepsake.