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Born in Dublin, Nathaniel Hone began as an itinerant painter in England. In 1742, he married into a rich family in York, which enabled him to settle in London as a highly fashionable miniature painter.
Nathaniel Hone’s portrait of Jane Roberts, Duchess of St. Albans dates from the time when he abandoned miniature painting in order to devote his time to life scale portraiture. His large, vibrant canvases reveal his brilliance as a miniature painter, notably in the brightness and intimacy in the sitter’s expression, the richness of detail and colour and particularly his depiction of the Duchess’s jewellery. Nicholas Hilliard’s treatise on miniature painting reinforces the importance of jewellery in painting and his technique was used by many subsequent generations of miniaturists. The quality of Nathaniel Hone’s paintings has often led his work to be attributed to Gainsborough.
Nathaniel Hone was an ambitious man and during his years in London, he was the main figure in setting up the Incorporated Society of Artists. He became a Director of this new society in 1766. He was also a Foundation Royal Academician from 1769-1784 in spite of a feud with the President Sir Joshua Reynolds. This disagreement reached a head in 1775 over the Academy’s refusal to exhibit his painting ‘The Conjuror’; a well-researched critique of Reynolds’ habit of stealing designs from Italian models. This led Nathaniel Hone to be the first artist in the history of British painting to put on a ‘retrospective one-man show’.
The Duke of St Albans; sold at:
Sotheby's London, December 1982; to
Private noble collection